Flourishing ecosystem of agro-biotechnology in Ghent

In the 1970s at Ghent University, Marc Van Montagu and Jeff Schell developed a technology to stably transfer genes to plants. This method is since then used worldwide to genetically improve plants. It was on the shoulders of these giants that VIB was founded in 1996 and an agro-biotech cluster started to develop in Ghent. Today, the VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology, led by Dirk Inzé, located at the heart of the plant biotechnology campus in Ghent, is known as one of the world-leading centers in plant science.

VIB has a long-standing tradition of converting basic plant science into successful companies: Devgen (1997), CropDesign (1998), Biotalys (2013) and Aphea.Bio (2017). CropDesign is now a BASF Plant Science company, while Devgen was taken over by Syngenta. The youngest spin-offs, Biotalys and Aphea.Bio, create next-generation agricultural biologicals to increase crop yields and to protect crops against specific pests and diseases. In addition, the companies work closely with VIB, which has resulted in substantial R&D investments.

Today, the VIB spin-offs and the VIB research center are part of one of the world’s major agbio research and development clusters, employing over 1,000 people dedicated to plant biotechnology. The agro-biotechnology sector is mainly clustered around Ghent, with BASF and Syngenta as examples of large companies that are active in this area – each with their own specialized R&D centers.