The life sciences sector is one of the targets for development in the Northern Netherlands. A wide array of dedicated research and development (R&D) centres and manufacturing plants have been established successfully all across the region. Within a relatively short period, the sector has developed into a blooming and fast-growing spearhead, fully profiting from the benefits of the region: the excellent infrastructure; the availability of qualified specialist staff; co-operative and co-investing regional and local governments; and the available know-how and synergy in the sector.

The life sciences sector in the Northern Netherlands comprises about 150 (international) companies and about 75 dedicated research groups, in the whole range of ‘red’, ‘white’ and ‘green’ life science/biotech, as well as developers and manufacturers of medical appliances.


Most of the dedicated medical/ pharmaceutical life sciences companies are situated in the surroundings of the University of Groningen, and the University Medical Centre Groningen. Among them are a significant number of dedicated life science companies, like contract research organisations, but also developers of new platform technologies and manufacturers.

Food research

In the field of food research, a leading institute is the Centre for Carbohydrate Bioengineering (CCB). The centre provides a combination of fundamental research on structure-function relationship of enzymatic carbohydrate modification and applied research on the molecular and functional properties of carbohydrates. Furthermore, the Northern Netherlands is the cradle for world-famous food companies like Friesland Foods (dairy) and Avebe (starches).


N.V. NOM, the investment and development agency for the Northern Netherlands, aims to strengthen the life sciences sector in the region. NOM has served as the gateway to a vast number of new businesses and offers know-how, as well as know-who and know-what, free of charge.

Life sciences companies have a five-stage life cycle: the science-base, the research stage, the development stage, the manufacturing stage and the mature stage. NOM concentrates its efforts mainly on stages three and four for new companies, and on stage four and five for existing life sciences companies that want to establish a subsidiary, new manufacturing plant or R&D centre in the region.

Life science cluster

However important the science base is for life sciences companies, success also depends on economic and commercial factors. Most small and medium-sized life sciences enterprises benefit greatly from operating in a cluster. It enables them to share skills and knowledge, to implement innovative technologies and methods much faster, and to speed up growth in productivity substantially. NOM promotes clustering of life sciences enterprises for this reason.


About seven years ago, BioMedCity Groningen – an initiative of companies, institutes and local authorities – was established. Last year a similar network was created for the more food/ environment oriented life sciences companies and institutes, and it has also been very successful.

The purpose of the network is to stimulate co-operation between life sciences companies and institutes in the region and other parts of the world through the transfer of information. Life sciences companies entering the European markets will discover that all necessary preconditions to creating a successful foothold, are present in the Northern Netherlands.