In the last few months, many Belgian start-ups have stood out with their responses to the pandemic, making Belgium the top European country in terms of COVID-19-related innovations.
The UNAIDS Health Innovation Exchange, together with the business research center StartupBlink, have recently published the Covid-19 report on innovation, which includes a list of 32 countries and 80 cities that have contributed to the fight against the coronavirus. The top position is occupied by the United States, followed by Canada and Israel. Belgium is in fourth place, but the first European country on the list. Some Belgian cities have excelled in terms of innovation, such as Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent and Leuven.
1. Outstanding Belgian start-ups
In terms of Belgian companies, the report included many start-ups that stood out thanks to their innovations.
Ergotrics (Antwerp) has been recognized for having designed inflatable ventilation pillows for intensive care units. The cushions enable patients to keep an optimal position when breathing, improving the oxygen uptake in the blood. The company carried out the research into the ventilation cushions’ potential and effectiveness with Ghent University. Other studies have revealed the benefits of ventilating patients while they lie on their stomachs.
The company Lasercut.be (Ghent) has been praised for the creation of face protection solutions and screens to reduce the risk of contamination in public spaces.
Materialise (Leuven) has manufactured an entire range of accessories using 3D printing to reduce virus transmission. For example, the company developed a tool that allows people to use a door handle without touching it with the hand and using only the arm. Materialise has made its designs available for free to anyone wishing to print their own. “By making the designs available digitally, they can be 3D-printed around the world in a few hours,” declared the CEO Fried Vancraen.
Byteflies (Antwerp) manufactured a patch to monitor patients affected by COVID-19 directly from their houses, reducing the need for hospitalization and, consequently, avoiding the overcrowding of hospitals and healthcare centers.
Even today, Belgian start-ups are undergoing a daily process of innovation to provide their help in the fight against the virus. Thanks to their achievements and endeavors, Belgium has been internationally recognized as #1 in Europe in terms of COVID-19-related innovations.
2. Vaccine research
Not only technological innovations have contributed to place Belgium on the top of the rank. Also scientific advances played a big role. Flanders’ life sciences industry is working hard to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, reaching important achievements. For instance, Janssen Pharmaceutica, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, is currently testing a potential vaccine on human beings. If the vaccine works, the pharmaceutical company hopes to bring it to the market in the first half of next year.
But there are also many other outstanding research institutes, universities and companies that are putting their efforts in developing a vaccine. The Rega Institute of KU Leuven, the biotech research center VIB, and the Pfizer’s vaccine production unit in Puurs are only some of them.