Chapter 7

The Dutch LSH sector: a strong player in Europe

The Dutch LSH sector can already compete with the leading players in Europe. In addition, there is a clear focus on markets that will grow in the coming years, such as medical technology, biotechnology and regenerative medicine. The sector is strong in techniques and methods for the development of new therapies, such as cohorts, biobanks, organoids and organs-on-chips. The Netherlands is also among the international vanguard in the field of clinical research.

Not only our innovations are distinctive, but also how these are successfully realised. The partners in the ecosystem work in open collaborations, and the essential translation from fundamental research to practice often takes place in companies. The citizen in her or his context is the focus of all efforts, from academia to business.

The internationalisation strategy of Top Sector Life Sciences & Health (LSH) 2020-2023 builds further upon the successful implementation of the strategy of the past five years.  This renewed internationalisation strategy has the general objective of increasing the competitive strength and, with that, the size and impact of the international economic activities of the Dutch Life Sciences and Health (LSH) sector.

National action programme “new opportunities for Top Sector LSH”

The national action programme “New opportunities for Top Sector LSH”, which was initiated following the arrival of the European Medicines Agency in the Netherlands, showcases the main strengths of the LSH sector. Furthermore, it specifies concrete actions to strengthen the international position of the Netherlands, improve its business climate and capitalise on the social, economic and scientific opportunities.

The Dutch LSH sector contributes to health, sustainability and prosperity with the following seven main national and international strengths: 

  • Regenerative medicine and (stem) cell therapy 
  • Infectious diseases and vaccine development 
  • Data and artificial intelligence 
  • Drug Discovery Development & Manufacturing 
  • Cohorts and biobanks 
  • Health Technology Innovation & Implementation 
  • Lifestyle medicine and prevention 

Four interrelated themes are crucial to the national LSH ecosystem. They are important for a good business climate for companies and therefore contribute to the success of the Dutch LSH sector: 

  • Relationship with EMA 
  • Laws and regulations 
  • Data infrastructure 
  • Relaxing the “pipeline” of valorisation / therapy development 

Becoming a global hub

Although the Dutch LSH ecosystem is already strong, there is a broad consensus that it has the potential to sustainably contribute much more to health, well-being, the economy and our international reputation.

The strong Dutch knowledge base, our well-organised healthcare, public-private partnerships, and a consensus-oriented culture could make the LSH sector one of the most important global hubs in (bio)pharmaceuticals and (para)medical-technological innovations.

This will not only benefit the Netherlands, but it will also allow us to sustainably export more health to the rest of the world. However, action is still needed in several areas to realise this possibility. Two joint national actions are highlighted below.

Transatlantic Life Sciences Partnership Massachusetts & the Netherlands

In July 2019, the Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment (MOITI) and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). This partnership advances the ongoing collaboration in life sciences between Massachusetts and the Netherlands. In 2021, representatives from both ecosystems will work together to advance the MoU even further into a programme of cooperation, aimed at strengthening the partnership between Massachusetts and the Netherlands. 

Even though our ability to travel across the globe was constrained over the past year, we can celebrate the fact that we have seen continuing and growing cooperation between Massachusetts and the Netherlands in the Life Sciences sector. In the summer of 2020, representatives from government, industry and academia convened during the BIO conference to discuss best practices in combatting the pandemic. Also, teams from the MIT hackathon “Beat the Pandemic” presented their solution to a group of stakeholders from the Life Sciences & Health ecosystem in the Netherlands. 


is ongoing in life sciences between Massachusetts and the Netherlands

In January 2021, a webinar was hosted with Emer Cooke (Executive Director, European Medicines Agency) and Dutch leaders from the Life Sciences sector to discuss the opportunities for Massachusetts biotech companies in Europe and the Netherlands. The webinar was recorded and can be watched on our website.

Or watch the highlights of the webinar here!

This Transatlantic Life Sciences Partnership is just getting started. During the remainder of 2021, several activities and programmes will take place that will focus on supporting the flow of talented entrepreneurs and scientists, investments, business, and science across the Atlantic. Two of the best and brightest entrepreneurs will receive the Henri Termeer Transatlantic Connections Award and become fellows at the Henri Termeer Foundation. The Dutch winner of this Award will be announced live on Friday 16 April (14:30) at Innovation for Health.

At the end of 2021, an investor conference will be organised to match investors and entrepreneurs who are exploring possible investments to stimulate groundbreaking life sciences innovations. Our goal is to involve biotech, medical device and other life sciences innovators from the Netherlands in extensive programmes that connect them with partners on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, so they can scale their innovations to Massachusetts!

Scaling up

through connections across the Atlantic

Personalised Medicine Partnership
Flanders and the Netherlands

In 2018, the Flemish Department of Economy, Science and Innovation and the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) “Personalised Medicine”. This MoU is an advance of the ongoing partnership and collaboration in Life Sciences & Health, for instance in Regenerative Medicine, between Flanders and the Netherlands.

In 2021, representatives from both ecosystems will work together to further advance the collaboration, aimed at strengthening the partnership between the two countries in the other personalised medicine themes stated in the MoU. These will be inspired by the obvious success of Regenerative Medicine.

Back in 2016, a strategic treaty was signed in which close cooperation between the Netherlands and Flanders was agreed in the field of regenerative medicine. The RegMed XB initiative was born, which stands for Regenerative Medicine Crossing Borders. This network institute stimulates international, multidisciplinary research via mostly virtual collaboration to achieve groundbreaking results, particularly for people with kidney failure, diabetes, heart failure and arthrosis.

In 2017, RegMed XB was officially launched, and the following year the parties involved agreed to invest more than 250 million euros over the next ten years in solutions for the four diseases. 

In the coming years, this Flemish-Netherlands partnership will continue to intensify its collaboration on several themes. Examples are cell-based technology (more specifically organ- and lab-on-a-chip technology), preventive life-context and life-style interventions (that is all about preserving health and participation in society for all in the 21st century), and personal data infrastructure, analytics and management, including state-of-the-art developments for FAIR data and services on the internet.

Although our ability to travel across the globe continues to be constrained during the COVID-19 crisis, this partnership celebrates the fact that we have seen continuing and growing cooperation between these neighbouring countries with ample revenues ahead within the Life Sciences & Health sector. ​​​​​​​

A continued collaboration between Switzerland and the Netherlands

In 2018, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concluded between Switzerland and the Netherlands laid out the groundwork for a continued partnership in several Life Sciences & Health themes. 

Switzerland has an excellent and highly developed Life Sciences sector. Major pharmaceutical companies are based there. However, developments in the field of e-health, for instance, are relatively slow. 

This year, the Netherlands and Switzerland have jointly announced a bilateral call for project proposals on eHealth. This EUREKA eHealth call is connected to the Dutch-Swiss, long-term strategies in public health laid down in The Federal Council’s health policy strategy 2020-2030 and the Dutch Knowledge & Innovation Agenda (KIA) on Health and Care 2020-2023. 


The primary focus of this call will be on stimulating application-driven research and the development of technologies and innovations that allow children and adolescents, as well as their families and relatives, to gain insight into their own health.

The applications developed will enable the children and adolescents to manage their health and daily functioning and contribute to health research (i.e. citizen science) through the use of health and health-related data ("quantified self"-approach) to improve both individual and population health (for instance, via a personalised individual ePartner).

In the coming years, this Swiss-Dutch partnership will continue to intensify its collaboration. Although our ability to travel is still constrained, this partnership celebrates that we have seen continuing and growing cooperation between the countries with ample revenues ahead within the Life Sciences & Health sector.