Tips for a successful biotech sector

A new report from the European Commission examines 27 EU countries (as well as non-members Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Croatia and Turkey) to determine what factors foster a successful biotech industry. Public R&D spending, favorable political policies, publications and the number of patents granted were all taken into account in determining which countries have the healthiest biotechnology sectors.

The study found that countries focused on basic and applied research faired better than those focused primairly on commercialization. "Nations wishing to sustain or improve their commercial performance in biotechnology will not be successful if they focus their supporting activities only on functions of the innovation system which are directly related to commercialization," warns the report. In addition, size alone will not guarantee the industry's success, and pouring money into the sector will only garner limited results.

Countries could be grouped into three classes based on their biotech sector's performance, with Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland rising to the top of the heap. "Though they do not spend as much on biotechnology research as their larger neighbors, they more than make up for it with their smart policies and good coordination between government departments," explains Project Manager Bernhard Zechendorf of the European Commission's Research Directorate General. Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, the UK and Norway--many of which have large biotech industries--were in the second-best performing group of countries.

Bringing up the rear were Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Spain, which the report cited as having below-average performance when compared to other nations. The fact that these countries were late to the biotech party has something to do with their sub-standard performance. For these countries that are still getting their footing, Zechendorf recommends that they pattern themselves after the most successful countries by making the most of limited budgets and developing expertise in niche areas.

- see the report for more