Life science industries continue to represent huge growth opportunities for countries and cities around the globe.
Those cities that have established a strong collaboration between universities and industry have been best placed to support companies investing in research and development into living things.
In many cities across Europe, from Brabant in the Netherlands to Stockholm in Sweden, life sciences are becoming more important to local economies and biotech companies are attracting increasing volumes of investment.
Covid-19 led to a global race to develop therapeutics and vaccines, giving a further investment boost to the life science sector, and with global awareness of biological dangers heightened, an increased investment interest in life sciences is set to continue.
The top ten cities for life sciences in Europe are Eindhoven, Stockholm, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Dublin, Düsseldorf, Munich, Berlin and Barcelona.
1. Eindhoven (Brabant, the Netherlands)
Eindhoven, which is the largest city in the Brabant region of the Netherlands, with a population of 223,209, is one of the top cities for life science in Europe.
As a large city with a strong economic position, it provides particularly prosperous investment opportunities in pharma, biotech, medical technology, and animal health, with significant and burgeoning ties to agrifood.
With a combination of world-renowned and respected life science knowledge and global life science industry leaders in the region, Eindhoven has extensive eco-systems for collaboration opportunities.
This is bolstered by a vast and rich supply of high-tech medical applications, including eye surgery robots and wearable healthcare companies.
Boasting a large and burgeoning industry and educational ecosystem, the cities of the Brabant province have facilities and companies that include specialist research, sophisticated production capability, and investment capital.
When we assess the volume of patent applications registered within top European cities, the number of start-ups finding commercial viability, and the way local health corporates lead their sectors in world markets, Brabant is clearly a globally recognised centre for life sciences and the health sector.
Brabant has 910 registered life sciences and health companies, accounting for 18,160 jobs. This is respectively 15.6% and 23.5% of the total Dutch life sciences and health sector.
Philips and MSD are well-known companies within the sector, but there are plenty of others. Companies such as Thermo Fisher Scientific, VDL, Neways, Siemens, Sioux, and Kulicke & Soffa are also prominent in the region, and help make Brabant a European leader in life sciences.
2. Stockholm (Sweden)
Stockholm-Uppsala life science sector is not only Scandinavia’s leading cluster, it’s also one of the world’s most productive hubs for health care advancement and life science know-how. On average, an astounding 15-20 new life science companies were formed in the region each year during the last decade.
Close ties between government, industry, and academia facilitate the development of ideas into commercially viable products across the life sciences and biotech industries in Stockholm, which had a population of 975,551 in December 2020.
Five of Europe’s most respected life science-focused academic institutions, among them the Karolinska Institutet, home of the Nobel assembly, play a major role in collaboration-driven success in life science technology and advancements.
Combine all this with large medical databases and the basic principle in Sweden that the individual researcher owns the result of his or her research and you get the perfect conditions for new and profitable ventures.
3. Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
With growing investment and increased collaboration between education institutions, research facilities, and industries, Amsterdam is becoming an internationally renowned ecosystem for health innovation.
The creation of the Amsterdam Life Sciences District in the southeast of the city, which has a population of roughly 821,000, is home to a biotech hub, comprising multiple startups, global medical companies, and universities.
Each of these is enjoying increased collaboration, nurturing a burgeoning culture of open innovation in life sciences and the health sector.
When we examine the increasing market activity of life science companies in Amsterdam, we find a healthy market for investment and growth.
Amsterdam was already a leader in life sciences in terms of overall market activity and investment but this has expanded greatly since the outbreak of Covid-19.
In 2020, life science companies consisted of 52% of the total office take-up in Leiden, a small city just 36km south of Amsterdam, while before 2020 they made up just 2-6%.
Late January 2023 also saw Strohm, the world’s first and leading producer of Thermoplastic Composite Pipes (TCP), complete its plant expansion in The Netherlands, just outside Amsterdam.
With a plan for accelerated growth and advanced support energy transitioning, this will enhance the existing life science ecosystem and attract more business to the region.
4. London (UK)
London is a leading European city for life sciences, in part thanks to close university-industry collaboration, having both Imperial College and UCL in the top ten universities for life science research.
London received the highest level of life sciences investments in 2021, with a range of biotech conferences taking place in the city growing the collaboration and investment potential even further.
London, which has a population of 8.9 million, boasts the headquarters of multiple biotech companies including gene therapy firms Orchard Therapeutics and Nightstar, as well as cancer research and development companies Autolus and Cell Medica.
In addition, London is home to antimicrobial development companies Motif Bio and ReViral.
5. Paris (France)
Paris is another of the top European cities for life sciences, with a wealth of academic and industry collaborations and a wealth of investment opportunities. Collaboration between Sorbonne University and life science companies continues to be strong.
Forecast growth in the life science and technology sectors suggests an annual growth rate of around 2% in the coming years. This is based on the fact that investment in these sectors across Paris has grown significantly over recent years, with government and private sector investment.
When we examine the life science clusters in Paris, we find not only strength in academia and industry, but we also significant growth potential with incubators and support that will nurture the growth and success of life science SMEs and start-ups.
As well as being considered one of Europe’s leading life science cluster locations, Paris also plays host to major healthcare companies alongside prominent public/private partnerships. In collaboration, these ensure and develop the growth of the life sciences ecosystem across the region.
Paris, with a population of 2.16 million is one of the top European cities for life sciences thanks to a combination of academia, industry and government support that strengthens the sector.
6. Dublin (Ireland)
Dublin is another global leader in the life sciences sector. There are many companies that contribute to this, as well as the research and academic facilities at Trinity College and University College Dublin.
Additionally, the facilities and investments at the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training continue to grow the sector in the Irish capital, which has a population of 545,000.
Across the metro region, medical technology employs around 27,000 people across approximately 400 companies, 50% of which are SMEs. Life science expertise in Dublin includes sub-sectors such as cardiovascular, respiratory, orthopedics, surgery, diagnostics, molding, and precision engineering.
Dublin is also a hosting hub for multinational MedTech companies, with an impressive 13 out of the top 15 global MedTech companies having operations in Ireland.
Government support for life sciences is, in part, responsible for making Dublin one of the top European cities for life sciences. Within the sector, companies can apply for funding from domestic programs such as the EU’s Horizon 2020 initiative, designed to encourage life sciences industry and research projects.
Helping to further strengthen life sciences in Dublin is the Science Foundation Ireland initiative. This fund supports 12 research centers across Ireland, including the Centre for Research in Medical Devices and the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research.
This investment keeps Dublin at the epicentre of the sector, confirming it as one of the top European cities for life sciences research.
7. Düsseldorf (Germany)
Düsseldorf boasts a strong and diversified life sciences sector. With around 100 companies investing in headquarters within the city, it is one of the top European cities for life sciences in terms of industry. Major global companies in Düsseldorf include Qiagen, Dynavax, Charles River, UCB, Bayer CropScience, Medtronic and Henkel.
Such is the diversity of the life sciences sector in this region, that university start-ups, multinationals, laboratory suppliers, and specialized service providers are well represented, often with major collaborations, including pharmaceuticals, medical technology, and chemistry.
Düsseldorf, with a population of 620,000, is considered one of the top European cities for life sciences due to its well-established ecosystem. Experienced business investors, and cooperative partners in large companies combine with a broad range of services, with such initiatives encouraged and backed by the Start-up Unit of Düsseldorf Economic Development Office.
When it comes to research, Life Science Center Düsseldorf is a laboratory and office complex that constitutes a major part of the city’s Innovation and Technology Centre.
As well as innovative start-ups and companies in the area of life sciences, the centre invests in and develops cutting-edge technologies.
Heinrich Heine University and Düsseldorf University Hospital are collaborative partners in the life science sector, with a vast amount of research in the field of life sciences conducted by both institutions.
With an estimated 2,500 scientists working in sector-specific areas including molecular and clinical hepatology, cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases and immunity, molecular and clinical neuroscience, diabetes and metabolic disorders, and oncology, Düsseldorf continues to maintain and expand its position as one of the top European cities for life sciences.
In addition, The Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine (IUF) and the German Diabetes Centre (DDZ) continue to play a pivotal role in the regional research landscape.
8. Munich (Germany)
Munich is undoubtedly one of the top European cities for life sciences. It is the leading biotechnology location in Germany, conferring a high ranking in European terms, with around 250 life sciences companies including 130 SMEs within the metropolitan area.
Largely concentrated in the Planegg district, Munich’s biotech hub includes entrepreneurs as well as MorphoSys. This is one of the largest life science related companies in Europe, a billion-euro biotech that develops antibody therapies for global distribution.
Medigene, a T-Cell receptor technology development company for cancer treatment, is also based in Munich.
As one of the top European cities for life sciences, it is no surprise that Munich, which has a population of 1.47 million, also boasts the presence of other sector companies including Wilex, 4SC and Oryx.
The combination of life sciences within the University and scientific research sector, established biotech companies, and start-ups, alongside collaborations with multinational pharmaceutical firms make the city a prime location for growth and investment.
With world-class universities, Ludwig-Maximilians, and Technische Universitat, the Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen research facility, three biological and life sciences institutes, and two university hospital facilities, each collaborating with life science sector companies, Munich is likely to remain one of the top European cities for life sciences.
9. Berlin (Germany)
As one of the economic powerhouses of Germany and Europe, Berlin is one of the epicentres of life science innovation, research, and industry. The metro city region, with a population of 3.6 million, is home to eight technology parks focusing on the life sciences.
Berlin boasts a wide range of life sciences companies and facilities, including 34 pharmaceutical companies employing around 11,000, 255 biotech companies with roughly 6,200 employees, 330 medical technology companies with approximately 14,400 employees, and 145 hospitals and 30 inpatient rehabilitation facilities.
Among these companies is the world-renowned Charité, one of the largest university hospitals in Europe, alongside Labor Berlin Charité Vivantes, the largest hospital laboratory in Europe.
Some of the larger life science sector companies in Berlin include ImmunoLogik, a company researching how to stop HIV from becoming resistant to antiretroviral therapy, and Solaga, which is researching the potential uses of cyanobacteria to produce biogas.
As one of the top European cities for life sciences, Berlin acts as headquarters to sector leaders including Ada Health, B. Braun, Bayer, Berlin-Chemie, Berlin Heart, Biotronik, Carl Zeiss Meditec, Cerner, CompuGroup Medical, Doctolib, Eckert & Ziegler, Ottobock, Pfizer, Sanofi, Karl Storz Endoskope, Takeda, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Zimmer Biomet.
With life science partnerships including collaboration between and support from legislators and government, leading medical associations, industry leaders, cutting-edge research facilities and clinics, health insurance companies, patient lobbying groups, training institutions, and innovative startups, the sector continues to grow in Berlin.
10. Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain)
Barcelona has a population of 1.62 million and is home to a vibrant and burgeoning biotech and pharma cluster landscape.
With over 1,000 companies across the life sciences sector, it is home to a world-class network of medical institutions, hospitals, research centers, healthcare multinationals and pharma companies.
With innovation and collaboration, these educational institutions, research facilities, and industry leaders have made Barcelona one of the top European cities for life sciences.
Since 2008, the amount of capital investment in the region’s life sciences companies has multiplied twelve times over.
With such industry giants as Swiss firm Roche Diagnostics in the city, ground-breaking research in biomedicine is well-established in Barcelona.
Roche Diagnostics has now installed its technological hub for the global market near Barcelona.
Other global companies have also established their production and innovation centres in Barcelona, including Boehringer Ingelheim, AstraZeneca, Sanofi, and Novartis, cementing it as one of the top European cities for life sciences.
Information, statistics and estimates are from ONS, German Federal Statistics Office, Statistics Institute France, Statistics Sweden and Central Statistics Office, QS World University Rankings.