Brabant region plays key role in European innovation

Brabant is responsible for 80 percent of Dutch patents in the field of medical technology. It is a sign that this province plays a key role in European innovation.

9 February 2022

It’s the stame story once again. But it’s a good one. For the umpteenth year, the region of Brabant is the driving force behind investments in R&D (research and development). The region has the highest score within the Netherlands, but also within Europe the region is performing very well. This is evident from the most recent figures from Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

Brabant is also an important player when it comes to patent applications, as emerged from research done by the Brabant Development Agency (BOM). Investments in research and development, as well as patent applications are important parameters of innovation.


Brabant ranks eighth in terms of private R&D intensity among European regions. This index refers to the expenditure on R&D of companies as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Statistics Netherlands has measured about 200 regions. Only five regions in Germany, Västsverige (Sweden) and Steiermark (Austria) are doing even better. The figures are for the year 2019.

Brabant has an absolute pioneering role in the Netherlands. In fact, it is thanks to the high percentage of private R&D intensity in this province that the Netherlands did not end up in the European rearguard. Do the math: the figure for Brabant is almost double (3.18 percent) of the European average. But if you take all the private R&D intensity in the Netherlands together, the figure (1.46 percent) is below the average in the European Union.

To put it another way: more than 33 percent of private R&D expenditure in the Netherlands in 2019 was attributable to companies in Brabant. That is, by the way, an increase of three percent compared to previous years.

If we zoom in even more, it turns out that within Brabant the region around Eindhoven is in charge. Companies there invested three billion euros in R&D in 2019. Six years earlier, that amount was still 2 billion euros.

Foreign investments

The investments are also made by non-Dutch companies. “Foreign companies in Brabant that develop R&D activities in the region mainly come from the United States, followed by Germany, Japan, China, India and the United Kingdom,” explains Guido Leestemaker, Project Manager Foreign Investments at BOM. International companies are increasingly choosing to locate their research center in Brabant.

Patent applications

The patent research that BOM has commissioned also shows the prominent role of Brabant in particular and the Netherlands in general. In this research, the number of patent applications at the European Patent Office (EPO) was counted. This shows that the Netherlands is doing very well. “In 2020, 6375 patents have been applied for in the Netherlands. That’s the fourth best in class.”

Most patents in Europe are applied for medical technologies. “The Netherlands is even number 2 in Europe in this specific field,” says Guido Leestemaker. Thanks again to Brabant. “Our province is responsible for 80 percent of Dutch patents in the field of medical technology”. However, it is important to keep an eye on this. The number of patents filed in the Netherlands in this branch of sport declined by almost 10 percent in 2020.

Brabant is also responsible for half of the ‘Dutch’ high-tech sector’ (HTSM), when it comes to patent applications.

Another pat on the back for the Netherlands: The Netherlands has the number one position in Europe for patent applications in the optics industry. The BOM research has also compared European patent data with global data. This shows that the Netherlands is in eighth place.

If we zoom in on data concerning Brabant, it emerges that this province is “at the top”, says Leestemaker. Brabant has applied for 3,281 patents at the EPO. That is about three times more than South-Holland, the number two on the list. It’s tempting to attribute this huge amount to Philips, but it wouldn’t be quite right.

“Brabant is at the top even without Philips. Of course Philips is important, but other companies with a high number of patent applications include Signify, NXP, ASML, Lumileds and Here,” said Leestemaker, who planstoalsodo a qualitative study on patent application.

Source: Innovation Origins