"More jobs would have been lost without innovation support"
Stakeholders were up in arms last week when it came to light that the bulk of Flemish government support for research and development went to about ten multinationals, among them major players Philips, Alcatel-Lucent and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Considering that these businesses shedded more jobs than they created in the past years, employers’ organization raised questions. Unizo, the union of independent entrepreneurs, wondered if these companies really needed these funds and Voka called for more extensive support, while innovation minister Ingrid Lieten SP.A once again committed herself to facilitating subsidies for small businesses. Janssen Pharmaceuticals vice-president Ludo Lauwers defended the 35.5 million his company received between 2002 and 2011 and put the 214 jobs that were lost during the time into perspective. “We do not dispute these figures, but it’s important to put it all into context. In Flanders multinationals like Janssen Pharmeceuticals are the main investors in research and innovation. The support we receive from the IWT Innovation through science and technology covers about one percent of the average 1 billion euros we spend on research and development each year,” he says in defence of the funding, while adding that the subsidy allows them to conduct experimental research in study fields which would not be possible otherwise, like the research in Alzheimer’s disease they do in cooperation with the laboratory of Professor Bart De Strooper of the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology. This give them a strong position within their global parent company, Johnson & Johnson, and made it possible to launch about fourteen new drugs in the last five years. “But we have to continuously prove ourselves to show that we are keen to conduct research and manufacture new drugs”. He confirmed there would have been more serious job losses without these subsidies as IWT general manager Veerle lories said recently. Furthermore there would have been less indirect employment among academic partners and subcontractors often small businesses without these large subsidies to multinationals. “In ten of the eighteen projects the IWT subsidized between 2010 and 2012 the integral support went to sixty external parties, proving how the support creates an entires ecosystem of innovation players and a bigger circle of suppliers and service providers,” Lauwers explained.