Belgium is a country with a proud track record in life sciences, with a well-developed ecosystem, a highly skilled workforce, and a long-established collaboration between public authorities, research centres and industry (Source: Pharma.be report). This strength was proven most visibly during the Covid-19 pandemic with the production of the Pfizer Biotech vaccine in Flanders. There are now over 140 biotech companies in Belgium, and, despite its geographical size, it represents nearly a quarter of the European biotech market value and is the third largest pharmaceutical exporter in the world.
It was with this in mind that BakerHicks chose to establish an office in Belgium with Donnachagh Brady at its head. Donnachagh, who has been with the business for almost 10 years, knows the company and its people inside out. Having first joined as an electrical, control and instrumentation (EC&I) engineer before moving into project management, he has been at the centre of some of BakerHicks’ most significant multi-disciplinary projects.
Donnachagh’s skill in design and project delivery for the life sciences sector is complemented by his broader experience in both design and site operations within other highly regulated sectors. This background has given him an in-depth understanding of a client’s needs and the considerations necessary for the success of large-scale multi-disciplinary projects. “The ability to put ourselves in the client’s shoes, truly understanding the operational requirements and how this can be realised through technical design means we can deliver a solution that works, is efficient and is compliant to industry standard,” he explains.
Working with global pharmaceutical companies on large-scale, highly complex projects requires flexibility to meet the changing demands of a fast-moving industry, and so the ability to get under the skin of what the client needs is key. Donnachagh says this is where BakerHicks offer real value: “Our biggest strength is in working closely with our clients from the very start of projects, helping to develop ideas into reality. Our industry-honed expertise from many years in the life sciences sector combined with our ability to leverage the skill of our subject matter experts and experience from across the wider company, allows us to truly understand our clients’ needs and deliver world-class solutions.”
Having teams on the ground where the client is located is central to BakerHicks’ approach across Europe, and Belgium is no exception. The local market awareness that this provides enables them to really understand the client’s priorities. It was for this reason that Niek de Koning joined the company to help support in developing new business opportunities within the region.
Niek’s knowledge of the Belgian market has been built over a career firstly as a chemical engineer and then in various leadership positions over the last 20 years in the life sciences sector. He particularly values the importance of culture: “Different cultures have to be respected,” he explains, “and the ways of doing business vary from one country to the next. In Belgium it’s even more complicated because there are both the Flemish and the French languages and cultures existing side by side. As a multi-disciplinary business, we know we have the technical skills to address many of the issues the Belgian pharmaceutical and biopharma companies face, but even with a proven track record elsewhere, you still have to build your reputation locally. It’s all about trust, you have to prove that you can be relied upon.”
Donnachagh believes that being able to leverage existing BakerHicks relationships across Europe is valuable in building trust in a new country. “BakerHicks may not yet be a familiar name in Belgium, but there are valuable references for our capability from the type of projects we’ve delivered over the last few decades in other countries with many of the same organisations. We have a strong heritage in delivering complex projects in the life sciences sector for some of the largest, as well as emerging, brands in the industry. This, combined with the new thinking we can bring to the Belgian market and our approach to working with clients, is what will build successful partnerships going forward.”
BakerHicks has over 65 years of life sciences expertise in the UK and has been operating in mainland Europe for 25 years. This goes a long way to demonstrating their long-term commitment across the continent. “Belgium is a key market for us, it’s at the epicentre of the European and global life sciences industry, so it’s only natural that this was our next step as a business. We’ve built strong local connections and strategic partnerships in the region, and this combined with the experience we bring in the sector gives us real capability to deliver world-class projects and solutions across the Belgian market,” Donnachagh concludes.