Life Sciences & Health

East Netherlands: Hotbed of innovation in Life Sciences

East Netherlands has been attracting a growing number of companies and R&D organizations in the area of health and life sciences, from global pharma companies’ branch offices to research-driven startups. They are being drawn in by the region’s extensive network of innovation-minded knowledge and health organizations, a large and well trained multilingual labor pool, ample inexpensive business locations and consistent support from local governments.

All new players feel quickly at home thanks also to the efforts of Oost NL, which understands companies’ needs and stands ready to use its extensive local network to support them at every step of their journey to innovation and growth.

A growing cluster of leading commerce in Life Sciences

East Netherlands’ growth in the areas of health and life sciences is well illustrated by the rapidly growing number of business parks and campuses housing new company players.

A few decades ago, the strategically located region counted just one business park; today, it has four: Novio Tech Campus Nijmegen, Mercator Technology & Science Park Nijmegen, Knowledge Park (‘Kennispark’) Twente Enschede, and Health Innovation Park Zwolle.

Many of the world’s leading life sciences and health companies have already chosen to settle here. Among them are well recognized European names such as Astrazeneca, Biotronik, LeadPharma, Novartis, Synthon, and Wassenburg Medical.

Even more telling may be the number of players from North America and Asia, with names such as Abbott, AbbVie, ASO, Exerion, Medimmune, GE, MDx Health, Microtek, Mindray, New Brunswick Scientific, Stryker, and Synergy Health.

An abundance of knowledge organizations in the Life Sciences

Regional business players gain access to East Netherlands’ many health-related knowledge organizations, which include research universities, academic medical centers, research institutes, research-oriented hospitals and outpatient service providers, as well as universities of applied sciences. They offer companies in the region lots of new ideas, a large and well suited labor pool, and invaluable access to patient cohorts, lab equipment and other research infrastructures.

Oost NL's network reaches deep into all of these innovation-driven organizations. Part of their matchmaking is done through Health Valley, a regional network organization that brings together about 700 health-related companies and knowledge organizations.

East Netherlands research universities and medical centers

  • Radboud University and Medical center (Nijmegen), a century-old general research university, has over 15,000 staff and 19,000 undergraduate and graduate students. It includes the Radboud Institute for Health Sciences and the Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences, spanning the faculties of Medicine and Science and focusing on molecular medicine, cell biology and translational health research in areas such as cell differentiation and cancer; genetic and metabolic disorders; renal disease; and structural and computational biology. A dedicated program called RockStart is connecting young digital health companies with patients and health professionals, helping them to bring innovative products to international markets. Radboud University is home to ParkinsonNet, the Dutch network for treatment and research related to Parkinson’s disease. The renowned Donders Center for Neuroscience (affiliated with the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics) is part of Radboud University as well.
  • University of Twente (Enschede), a young, entrepreneurial engineering university, forms the core of Holland’s first innovative business campus. It has about 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students and about 3,300 staff. Health-related and medical technology, e.g. e-Health, robotics, rehabilitation technology, imaging and sensors, and labs-on-a-chip, are major research fields of this energetic university, which has spun off more than 800 companies so far.
  • Wageningen University & Research, the largest nutritional health and agriculture research community in the world, ranks in the top-30 of life sciences universities globally. Its more than 6,000 staff and 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students from over 100 countries focus on healthy food, among other things.

Research institutes

Proximity to high-end public and public/private technology research gives companies access to the latest knowledge, infrastructure and collaborative development projects. East Netherlands offers many such opportunities. To name a few:

  • The MIRA Institute for biomedical technology and technical medicine occupies a unique space halfway between engineers and medical doctors. Its more than 300 researchers work with hospitals, industry and government to develop technology that is better adjusted to clinical practice because knowledge and needs of physicians are put front and center. Engineering students receive training in some medical interventions to advance the implementation of new technology. MIRA focuses on tissue regeneration, imaging and diagnostics, and neural and motor systems;
  • Radboud University’s Institute for Molecules and Materials (IMM) works in hot areas such as molecular life-like systems and molecular materials design, with research groups covering all forms of organic chemistry including diagnostics and drug discovery. Bioinformatics is another of Radboud University’s key areas.
  • The Sint Maartenskliniek is a research clinic dedicated to disorders related to posture and movement. The clinic specializes in orthopedics, rheumatology, and rehabilitation techniques, with a capacity of 300 in-patients and 400 out-patients. The clinic has its own research department.
  • Sports and Innovation Center Papendal is a leading center for research and innovation in the area of sports. It harbors medical research and a Sports Innovation Lab for privately funded development and validation of innovative products, services and facilities. The lab specializes in performance monitoring, physiology, recuperation, sleep, and nutrition.

Universities of applied sciences

Approximately 100,000 (under)graduate students are trained at universities of applied sciences across the region, such as HAN, Saxion, and Windesheim. Many of those students follow curricula directly related to health or healthcare.

Strong government support for Life Sciences and Health

Health and life sciences entrepreneurs in East Netherlands benefit from government support, both financial and general, at regional, national, and European levels.

  • In Europe, the presence of many internationally acclaimed researchers and institutes helps to bring millions of euros into public-private collaboration projects that are part of the EU’s Framework Programmes.
  • At the national level, the Dutch government has consistently named ‘life sciences and health’ as a key innovation priority, which has ensured long-term incentives and access to hundreds of millions of euros in public contributions to public-private R&D projects.
  • Regional governments, i.e. the provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel, provide support in many ways, for example by supplying venture capital and by co-funding regional health innovation initiatives. Examples include collaborations such as EFRD and Interreg and Health Valley, a public-private network organization that covers the wider East Netherlands region especially in areas such as molecular diagnostics, translational medicine, robotics and medical devices for care and cure, and e-Health.

Regional governments also contribute by actively providing attractive business campus locations.

Access Europe through a top-ranking health care system

From East Netherlands, health and life sciences companies gain access to Europe while exploiting (and enjoying) top-ranking health and education systems. They also benefit from having a base in a country known for its political and social stability, which has ranked near the very top of the United Nations’ Human Development Index for many years.

East Netherlands is strategically situated in many other ways as well: it is very close to major urban economies, with Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the West and the German Ruhr District in the East. Excellent physical and digital infrastructures interconnect the region with Europe and the rest of the world. For example, airports close by connect directly to hundreds of global destinations, while the Dutch-German NDIX constitutes Europe’s largest open broadband network and offers R&D companies in the region super-speed internet connections.

Oost NL stands ready to guide you in

Close collaboration with all the relevant regional players enables Oost NL to quickly guide any newcomer in — whether they are companies, employees or their families.

Many companies have benefited from

  • experienced networking and matchmaking services, including those provided through the Health Valley network, which has hundreds of public and private members 
  • entrepreneurs are helped in finding partners within or even far outside the region, or participate in knowledge or facility sharing arrangements
  • help in finding new personnel, scouting potential business locations, or attracting outside investment
  • Employees and their families get support in finding suitable housing and access to one of many excellent international education opportunities