Biotech is "uneven" in new EU member states

October 2, 2009
Stephanie Sutton

Stephanie Sutton was an assistant editor at Pharmaceutical Technology Europe.

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe

A new report evaluating the biotech sector in new EU member states and candidate countries has described biotech developments as "uneven" because of contrasting economic strategies in different countries.

A new report evaluating the biotech sector in new EU member states and candidate countries has described biotech developments as "uneven" because of contrasting economic strategies in different countries. The report, Biotech in the new EU Member States: an emerging sector, published by EuropaBio and Venture Valuation in collaboration with national stakeholders, examined the biotech industry across the 12 newest EU member states, as well as the candidate countries Turkey and Croatia. Draft policy recommendations for SME support and further development have also been issued. These were formulated during workshops held in Budapest (Hungary), Prague (Czech Republic) and Vilnius (Lithuania).

Smaller and less developed than that of many western European countries, the biotech sector in the new member states and candidate countries is described by the report as "young and immature". "There is a need for a critical mass of innovation, support, resources in terms of manpower and financial means to allow countries to flourish," says the report.

In a press release issued by EuropaBio, Patrik Frei, CEO of Venture Valuation and co-author of the report, also added: "Despite the political will to develop R&D as a national priority and government interest in biotechnology, concrete policies are not always put into practice. Setting up a coherent and consistent framework with support dedicated to the biotechnology and healthcare sectors is the key to long-term success for the industry."

Some new EU member states have already established a flourishing biotech sector; Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Estonia were identified as having the highest number of biotech companies and the most developed biotech sectors. The report described them as "already on par with some Western European countries" and explained that these countries moved into biotech early on and established a "coherent framework for biotechnology and innovation".

"A moderately developed biotechnology sector, with well-balanced support structures and political programmes for SMEs and biotechnology, already exists in several countries with a relatively high number of active companies," said the report. It, however, also revealed an "overall lack of awareness and information on available resources both at EU and national levels" and, in some cases, a lack of funding opportunities. Other highlighted barriers included an unfavourable environment for product commercialization, lack of awareness in IP protection rights, and the fact that the majority of R&D is conducted at universities and collaboration with industry is rather limited.

In the press statement, Willy De Greef, Secretary General of EuropaBio and co-author of the report, said: "While achievements of the sector are not yet visible in terms of products on the market, it is important to acknowledge that a solid foundation is emerging in these countries to bring about future developments of the biotechnology sector."

www.europabio.org