UCB, a major player in the biopharmaceutical sector, has announced a major investment programme in Wallonia.
Founded in 1928, UCB specialises in finding therapeutic solutions for patients suffering from severe diseases treated by specialists, particularly in the fields of neurology (including epilepsy) and immunology. The biopharmaceutical company's key activities are the research, development and marketing of pharmaceutical and biotechnological products. It has research and development centres in Europe, Asia and America.
UCB began investing in Wallonia ten years ago in the first Bio-Pilot plant at the Braine-l'Alleud site. The company currently devotes 25% of its turnover to R&D and is involved in several gene therapy projects.
1 billion euros over ten years
To convert its Walloon site into a high-tech campus, UCB had already announced an initial investment of 300 million euros (not included in the billion) for the construction of a multi-product biotechnology plant that will be operational in 2024. The announced new investment of €1 billion will be divided into two parts, with €200 million dedicated to new gene therapy facilities.
The remaining €800 million will be used to modernise the campus and make it more sustainable. The laboratories will be updated and adapted to the new research methods, and the production tools will also be changed so they are more digital and environmentally friendly. The existing buildings will be transformed to promote collaborative spaces and the well-being of the teams.
To reduce the campus's ecological footprint and pursue its environmental objectives set in 2015 to reach carbon neutrality in 2030, the largest solar panel farm in Wallonia with 32,000 panels will be created in collaboration with the municipality of Braine-l'Alleud to cover a quarter of the site's energy needs, and the company also has a geothermal project with the implementation of a water recovery and recycling system.
The biotechnology plant is named "Inflexio" and the gene therapy facilities "Genesis".
When the foundation stone of the Genesis project was laid, the Walloon Minister of Economy, Willy Borsus, welcomed these new investments and UCB's societal involvement and reiterated the Walloon Government's support for the biopharma sector and the willingness of Wallonia to meet the sector's needs in terms of training in scientific and technical professions.
If Wallonia counts a number of well-known names such as GSK, UCB, IBA or Baxter, some smaller innovative companies whose success is multiplying (Bone Therapeutics, Celyad, Univercells, MaSTherCell SA, Belgian Volition,...) have also demonstrated expertise that has rendered the region unmissable for the life sciences sector.