As a neighboring country, Belgium is a major trading partner of the Netherlands: more than 10% of total Dutch exports go to Belgium. In the Life Sciences and Health (LSH) sector, Belgium is a convenient trading partner close to the Netherlands. In recent years, many activities have been organized to strengthen the relationship between the LSH sectors in both countries. Future activities will be aimed at further strengthening this relationship to facilitate collaboration. 

Belgium operates an advanced health system. Federal authorities and federated entities have different responsibilities. Federal authorities are responsible for regulating compulsory health insurance, the outpatient budget, hospital budget and programming standards, pharmaceuticals, their price control, and healthcare professions. The federated entities (regions and communities) are responsible for health promotion and disease prevention, the organisation of primary and palliative care, maternity and child healthcare, social services and community care, the financing of investments in hospitals (infrastructure and heavy medical equipment) and the determination of hospital licensing standards. Interministerial conferences are regularly organised to facilitate cooperation between the federal authorities, the regions and the communities.

However, several health challenges are forcing the Belgium health system to adapt and improve. Major challenges include demographic and epidemiological developments, higher health expectations, healthcare affordability, accessibility, sustainability, quality and efficiency. In recent years, Belgian health policy has focused on making health services more efficient. There was also substantial investment in health personnel. The focus in the coming years will include the reform of the hospital landscape, mental health care, integrated care and the accessibility of care. Following the COVID-19 crisis, consideration is now also being given to how to improve the resilience of the health system.



Ageing society. Comparable to many West European countries, Belgium faces the consequences of an ageing population. In the coming 10-20 years, a significant proportion of the population will reach pensionable age. This will lead to increased demand for elderly care and assisted living facilities, while there is also a rise in chronic (non-communicable) diseases.

Prevention. Besides an ageing population, the prevalence of inactive and unhealthy lifestyles is rising, resulting in chronic diseases. Belgium is seeking solutions that help prevent chronic diseases and help to maintain good health. Currently, only 2% of the total healthcare budget is spent on prevention, but it is expected that this will rise. Strengthening primary care and improving care coordination is part of this effort. In line with prevention, there is also more focus on mental health. The aim is to ensure accessibility to mental health services by improving supply.

Digital transformation of healthcare. Building on a previous eHealth plan from 2013-2018, Belgium has adopted a new action plan eHealth plan for 2019-2021. This plan has and will facilitate the development and introduction of digital tools for patients and care providers. Sharing and digitalising information, between - and in - primary care and hospitals is a crucial part of this plan. The adoption of electronic medical records and e-prescriptions has risen tremendously, while a new secure online platform is also being developed.

The COVID pandemic has also led to increased support for digital healthcare in Belgium. Besides teleconsultations, (video) calling GPs or therapists, tele-expertise and telemonitoring also got a boost. There are many entrepreneurial opportunities in Flemish and Belgian (digital) healthcare provision. The digital transformation of Belgian healthcare in mutual partnership between different government entities and the work field is still on the political agenda.


Pharmaceutical industry. An above average number of drugs are being developed in Belgium, while the country also has prominent production and manufacturing capacity. This offers major potential for R&D partnerships with the Belgian private sector and research institutes (TFHC Market Overview 2018). Also, clinical trial speed and number of applications are among the highest in Europe.

Personalised health & personalised medicine. In 2018, the Flanders Department of Economy, Science and Innovation and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs & Climate Policy signed a MoU on enhanced cooperation in the field of personalised medicine. Four subthemes are addressed: Regenerative Medicine, Cell-based technologies amongst others Organ-on-Chip, Prevention and Lifestyle medicine, and Personal data infrastructure and management. Personalised medicine appears to be attracting increasing attention from pharmaceutical companies and Belgium has a strong market position in this regard. The country also possesses a good ecosystem for building personalised medicine: academia, SOCs, companies, cluster organisations etc.


Belgium is not a priority country for foreign direct investments, but we do see an increase in interesting projects. For this reason, we will follow the trade and innovation activities. Reactively, Invest in Holland is keen to welcome and assist foreign companies that contribute to the goal of the Netherlands in finding solutions that deliver better, affordable and sustainable healthcare and strengthen our Life Sciences & health ecosystems.

Regional priorities

Brussels. Brussels is an important region because of the presence of the national government, ministries and innovation hubs. This makes the region unique compared to Flanders and Wallonia.

Flanders. The Flanders region has been a natural trading partner for Dutch organisations, since they share a border and a language. At the Flemish level, policy priorities are mainly situated around better integration of care, (recruiting) sufficient care staff, a data-driven health policy, prevention and home care and elderly care. In terms of healthcare infrastructure, the Flemish government provides many investment subsidies.

Wallonia. Wallonia has comparable attention for better integration of care. However, there is an increased emphasis on access to care. Compared to Flanders, the biopharmaceutical industry and MedTech are key areas due to the presence of major companies in these fields. From September 2022, Wallonia has a programme which sets the priorities in terms of prevention and health promotion for the next 5 years which will service as a guideline for health promotion actors.


The Dutch interest in Belgium is still considerable. However, as it is a nearby market, most Dutch companies travel themselves to Belgium instead of participating in collective activities. The majority of Dutch organisations active in Belgium can be found in the category of small and medium sized businesses.

Most prominent NL value chains

1.     The Digital Transformation of Health and Care: the use of data for clinical decision-making, diagnosis of disease, detection of acute and long-term risks, treatment plans and monitoring.

·       Dutch research is focused around health data management and detection & screening tools, which can facilitate data analysis. Dutch solutions have a strong focus on improving efficiency and clinical decision support tools.

·       Since more and more health-related data is being measured and collected in Belgium, the potential for analysing this data is increasing. Dutch organisations can support the transition of Belgian healthcare towards digitalisation. The Netherlands has considerable experience in digital healthcare, which it is ready to share with similar countries like Belgium.

2.     Healthy Living & Ageing: Research and solutions that contribute to maintaining (prevention), strengthening and recovering (rehabilitation) physical and mental wellbeing, by increasing people’s independency.

·       Life expectancy in the Netherlands is one of the highest in the world and the Dutch therefore have considerable experience regarding healthy living and ageing. They know that a holistic approach and multidisciplinary collaboration are key pillars in achieving healthy living. They also acknowledge the important role of prevention and healthy lifestyles.

·       The Belgium elderly population demands both an expansion of existing (geriatric) healthcare services and adapting current health delivery models. In addition, there is a need in Belgium to accelerate the plans regarding prevention. By means of primary care and care coordination (integrated care), Belgium strives to keep patients out of expensive hospitals. By making care more integrated and focused on home care, healthcare will become more efficient and patient-centered.

3.     Connected Care: Connecting data, systems, information and persons in a convenient, safe and secure way.

·       Dutch expertise in Connected Care facilitates anytime and anywhere access to healthcare. This makes healthcare available to everyone regardless of their socioeconomic background. Dutch eHealth solutions are renowned for their simplicity, consistency and flexibility. They are being developed through extensive collaboration and co-creation, involving government, research institutes, SMEs, multinationals and civil society. The small Dutch home market forces them to adapt solutions to international standards, cultures and ways of working.

·       Sharing and digitalising information is crucial for facilitating the eHealth plan 2019- 2021 from the Belgian government. With the rise of home care, there is an increasing need for enabling technologies in this field. These enabling technologies are necessary to assist the value chain of Healthy Living & Ageing.

4.     Biopharma

·       Considering the strengths of the Flanders and the Netherlands biotech ecosystems and joint ambitions in the field of personalised medicine, Biopharmaceutical Developments and Personalised Medicine is the fourth value chain on which sustainable bilateral cooperation is foreseen.

Overview milestones & flagships

·       G2G (MoU, state visits, thematic focus on prevention and digitalisation, for example)

·       Trade (PIBs, Market study, missions, incoming delegations)

·       Innovate (joint R&D projects, specific bilateral calls)

·       Invest (significant investments in the Dutch LSH sector)

·       RegMedXB is a longer running, cross-border, strategic collaborative effort between Dutch clusters and the Leuven region

Collective Activities to Belgium 


·      Economic mission to Belgium (Leuven). Led by Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. Focus on digital health.

·      Signing of MoU Netherlands & Flanders on Personalised Medicine


·       Healthcare mission to Belgium

·       Thematic focus on eHealth with emphasis on elderly care.

·       Incoming Belgian mission to the Netherlands as part of the Health~Holland Visitors Programme (HVP) and World of Healthcare.


·       Incoming Belgian mission to the Netherlands as part of the Health~Holland Visitors Programme (HVP) and World of Healthcare.


·       Life-on-Chip Conference 2021

·       Knowledge seminar

·       Health~Holland meet-up Belgium, to update LSH organisations on the latest developments in the Belgian healthcare market.

·       The bilateral R&D call “Cell-Based Technolgies” between EWI/Vlaio and EZK/H~H/RVO is launched

The way forward

Several initiatives will be deployed from 2023 onwards to strengthen relations that have been built up in recent years: 

Knowledge sharing
Dutch and Belgian LSH organisations have considerable experience, which can benefit the internationalisation of other organisations. Efforts to facilitating knowledge sharing among stakeholders will therefore be stimulated. 

Bilateral R&D cooperation
Within existing frameworks for bilateral research and innovation cooperation, like EUREKA, Eurostars and Horizon Europe many Belgian-Dutch collaborations have been supported over the years. These programs and associated matchmaking and networking events can be used to strengthen the bilateral ambitions. Continuing the collaborations between RVO and VLAIO.            

Building sustainable relationships with Belgian counterparts
Building long-lasting relationships is an integral part of the Health~Holland International Strategy 2020-2023. Relationships built up in recent years will be strengthened. Intended broader collaborations are foreseen with In4Care, Agoria and Voka Health Community as well specific collaborations with EWI, VLAIO and FWO in line with the MoU.

Preferred actions

·       Collective participation (mission or NL pavilion) at Health & Care 2023.

·       Matchmaking and further deepening of collaboration on personalised health concerning the MoU with Flanders.

·       Collaboration between Voka, Agoria, In4Care and TFHC to further connect the healthcare ecosystems.