CATCH, a triple challenge for the Biopark

September 26th 2018

The ‘Catalysts for Charleroi’ plan (CATCH) was launched to promote job creation in the Charleroi region. One year later, Augustin Coppée, head of the programme's ‘Health & Bio’ branch, takes stock of projects around the Biopark.

When was the CATCH plan initiated, and for what purpose?

Augustin Coppée: ‘In 2016, it was announced that the Caterpillar plant would be shut down: the news sent a shockwave through the entire region. The CATCH recovery programme is a response to this calamity, aiming to boost job creation. In the ‘Health & Bio’ branch(1), developing the Biopark is one of our flagship projects(2). Many outstanding results have already been achieved, and for this we owe thanks to Dominique Demonté [director of the Biopark], ULB, and the teams at I-Tech Incubator and Igretec. But we have no intention of stopping there!’

In concrete terms, what are your ambitions for the Biopark?

‘CATCH's ambition is to double the number of jobs at the Biopark by 2025. This will be quite an undertaking, as the challenge is threefold: we must develop infrastructures, offer training programmes, and cultivate partnerships.
Our first challenge relates to infrastructures and mobility. The rapid growth of the companies in the Biopark and the constant arrival of new companies both require real estate. This is why we will build a new 270,000-square-foot building, in order to meet the demand for laboratories and offices. We also intend to develop local services (restaurants, shops, fitness centres, etc.), creating a ‘village square’ inside the Biopark itself. Working together with the regional airport, we will also develop mobility.’

Your second challenge is training…
‘That's right. We need to build a stronger talent pool, by offering more programmes that meet the local businesses' requirements. For instance, laboratory scientists. By leveraging the potential of existing structures such as ULB's centre for continuing education, ULB's HeLSci (Health and Life Sciences) training centre, or CefoChim(3), we can offer and deploy solutions quickly.’

What about partnerships?
‘The Biopark's strength lies in its ecosystem. which is why we must protect and strengthen it. We are committed to supporting and developing collaborations between the various players involved: universities, hospitals, and businesses. This involves sharing equipment, data, personnel, skills, or even just gather around a drink! We must also continue to establish partnerships outside Charleroi, with new partners all across Belgium, Europe, the USA, and Asia. Professional as well as human relationships must be cultivated at all levels, in order to confirm the Biopark's status as a major national and international player in the biotech industry.’

(1) The CATCH plan covers three other branches: Advanced Manufacturing, Airport & Logistics, and Creative & Digital.
(2) Two other flagship projects bear noting: one on e-health, with the new Institute of Analytics for Health (INAH), and the other on partnerships with hospitals.
(3) CefoChim is a training centre dedicated to the chemical and (bio)pharmaceutical industries.