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Benelux vs DACH region – Which Location is Best for Life Sciences Professionals?

Keeping an eye on the up-and-coming or thriving regions in life sciences is essential for life sciences professionals at all levels.

After all, many life sciences professionals have taken the upheaval of the pandemic and other associated changes to relocate to areas that have the investment, infrastructure, and support to help them to grow.

Two of the most prominent contenders to this discussion are the Benelux – Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg – and DACH – Germany, Austria, and Switzerland – regions.

Both regions are rich in opportunities for life sciences employees, with notable life sciences clusters, high investment, and infrastructure designed to support the high number of employees located in each region.

If you’re considering relocating to the Benelux or DACH regions for a life sciences role, or simply just curious about the outlook in each region, which is best for you?


Benelux is and has been for some time, a thriving and prosperous area for life sciences.

The countries that make up the region each have their own unique and significant contributions to the industry, with different strengths that will be attractive to life sciences employees.


The Benelux region has excellent academic and research infrastructure in place.

What sets Belgium apart as a life sciences location, for example, is the financial stimuli from the public sector, which provides support through grants and tax benefits for academic R&D in each of the three Belgian regions.

Additionally, there are the fourteen Belgian campuses that are spread across Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels, that interact and collaborate effectively in the same way that the host of public research centres and institutions do in the region.

Most importantly for life sciences professionals considering the Benelux region, Belgium’s multilingual and highly skilled workforce has its roots in a high academic standard that is above the OECD average.

Similarly, the Netherlands is home to a concentrated life sciences cluster with more than 2200 life science and MedTech companies and research organisations – the Netherlands is the most geographically concentrated region in the world when it comes to creating economic and social value in life sciences.

As with Belgium, the Netherlands also has excellent academic and research facilities, with 10 universities, 8 university medical centres, and 3 technological universities.

Luxembourg’s life sciences sector has equally been bolstered by strategic partnerships between its national public research centres and three world-renowned US research institutes, which founded the Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg.

Pharma & biotech leaders

More than 29 of the 30 global leaders in the pharmaceutical industry have a foothold in Belgium, such as Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, and Belgium is the third-largest exporter of medicines in Europe.

Based on a report by McKinsey, the Benelux region is predicted to become the leading biotech hub in Europe and a major player in the global biotech landscape.

With 29 million inhabitants, 120 annual patent filings, €115m venture funding raised per year and €300m public money raised per year, Benelux has all of the key components to truly innovate in biotech.

Interestingly, Benelux as a biotech hub ranks among the most robust in Europe, hosting more biotech launches than anywhere else in Europe other than the UK from 2012-2018.

For life sciences professionals, this makes Benelux a key region to consider when pursuing a role in pharma or biotech, particularly since the region is only likely to continue improving and innovating over time.

It’s a great region to work in

Beyond its reputation for life sciences excellence, the Benelux countries are also considered great locations to work in.

In fact, all three Benelux countries rank in the top 20 of the World Happiness Report 2021.

Luxembourg has a high expat population at almost 50% and is one of the smallest countries in Europe with a population of around 626,000, showing its clear desirability for people looking to relocate.

The salaries in Luxembourg are also among the highest, and it is the third richest country in the world based on GDP per capita.

For those looking for work-life balance, Belgium and the Netherlands are also ideal due to the availability of remote roles, with the Netherlands being ranked third in terms of countries with the best work-life balance.


Vast opportunities for growth and innovation are available in the DACH region, with high buoyancy in the job market and resilience that many other industries in other locations would be envious of.

But what other benefits are there when it comes to the life sciences sector in DACH?

Job resilience

Many professionals will have taken a step back after the height of the pandemic to reconsider their job in terms of its security and the associated benefits.

For those looking to have a long-lasting and fruitful life sciences career, the DACH region is undoubtedly an ideal option.

In Austria alone there are 405 companies active in biotechnology and pharma, generating €16.03bn of turnover in 2020 (an increase of 5%) and a turnover of €9.03bn in the medical devices industry.

Similarly, Germany is the fourth largest pharmaceutical market in the world and the largest in Europe and has a thriving small to medium sized enterprise market, particularly in medtech.

Hiring trends also indicate that Switzerland will have high vacancies for pharma and biotech roles, with high investment in these areas only likely to bolster the need for life sciences talent.

Research expertise

Each DACH country has a considerable network of renowned research expertise.

Austria has a total of 55 institutions that are dedicated to life sciences research, with a strong academic community of university research institutes.

R&D in pharmaceuticals is an area that Germany excels, with a record-breaking €7.8bn spent on the area in 2019, putting it first place in Europe.

Given that Austria, Germany and Switzerland are ranked on similar levels by the OECD when it comes to R&D spend – Switzerland spent CHF22.9bn on R&D in 2019, above the OECD average – it is an understatement to say that the DACH region is at the forefront of research in terms of investment in the area and the infrastructure to support it.

Constant innovation

The DACH region is highly specialised, technologically advanced, and innovative in its approach to life sciences.

Companies in the most prominent Swiss medtech clusters, such as Basel and Bern, are issued an estimated 1,200 patents a year, and Switzerland is known for specialising in areas such as non-invasive surgical systems and lab instruments.

Bioinformatics is a burgeoning area in Austria’s life sciences industry, even though the biotech industry in Austria is comparatively less mature than the other regions.

Germany is also no stranger to innovation, with scientific and technological breakthroughs acting as a key differentiator, with a highlight of these efforts being cell antigen therapies to customise drugs.

Which is best for you?

Well, that depends on your goals and needs as a life sciences professional!

Both the Benelux and DACH regions are seeing high investment, rapid digitalisation, and continuing innovation across disciplines.

For many professionals, it will come down to a matter of which discipline you work in/would like to pursue, and which area you feel can best act as a catalyst for growth in this area.

One thing remains certain… The life sciences outlook for Benelux and DACH is positive.

Are you looking to start your life sciences recruitment career in the Benelux or DACH regions? Take a look at our vacancies to find out more about how you can start today or get in touch with the Panda team.