Belgium, together with Switzerland, is leading the field in Europe for deep tech developments, according to research by specialist Omar Mohout of consultancy Sirris.
Deep tech is defined as technology that requires long periods of time to develop, and is based on breakthroughs in science and engineering.
By contrast, shallow tech is built upon existing technology and is more of an evolution than a big-bang breakthrough.
Mohout’s research discovered 597 companies in Belgium active in deep tech, mainly start-ups – the area in which he specialises – and often spin-offs from universities or research institutes like Vito, the Flemish institute for technical research, or micro-electronics centre imec, which specialises in nanoelectronics.
More than nine out of ten are active uniquely on the business marketplace, rather than carrying out pure research. And two-thirds are based in Flanders, with the KU Leuven being particularly fertile soil.
While deep tech companies represent only 20% of Belgium’s tech companies, they nevertheless attracted 40% to 70% of tech funding in recent years. This year, investment amounted to €437 million, the highest figure since 2017’s €565 million.
The reason for Belgium’s success are not hard to figure out. The country has some outstanding universities and research institutes, and a strong engineering culture. That, together with the presence of manufacturing companies and a strong biotechnology sector all conspire to create a healthy environment for all tech start-ups, and deep tech in particular, Mohout concludes.
The study calculated proportion of scale-ups – companies in a growth phase – were deep tech companies, and found Belgium at 31%, beaten only by Switzerland on 34%.