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   The Knowledge-based bio-economy
CONFERENCE - Brussels, Charlemagne Conference Centre, 15-16 September 2005
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Laying the ground for a prosperous bio-economy

The life sciences and biotechnology are surging ahead at an unprecedented rate and have progressed in leaps and bounds in the half-century since the double helix structure of DNA was discovered. They are rapidly transforming the agricultural and food sectors and creating new, cutting-edge bio-resource industries.

Scientists have already painstakingly mapped out the entire human genome and those of a rapidly increasing number of animals and plants. Our growing knowledge of the molecular mechanics of organisms will soon yield vast health, societal and economic rewards.

Reaping the rewards of a revolution

The life sciences and biotechnology are now firmly established. Scientists have accumulated a wealth of information and new knowledge which needs to be structured, studied and disseminated.

This frontier sector can lead to applications and products in a wide range of fields, such as new agricultural products and practices, novel foods, biodegradable plastics, as well as sustainable, environmentally friendly biofuels.

Biotechnology is opening up new possibilities in terms of tailor-made foods targeted at specific consumer groups. In addition, industrial biotechnology is breaking new ground in understanding microbial biodiversity and bioprocesses that could lead to valuable bio-products and bio-materials.

Towards a bio-economy

The life sciences and biotechnology are the main scientific drivers of the bio-economy which is worth an estimated €1.6 trillion a year in Europe. The EU’s agro-food industry alone represents more than €800 billion annually and employs over 4 million people.

The EU’s overarching ambition to build the world’s most competitive knowledge-based economy implies the existence of an efficient and effective bio-based economic infrastructure to support it in a sustainable fashion.

Such a bio-economy would also assist rural development and sustainability, ensure the long-term competitiveness of the European agriculture, food and chemical industries, and reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.

Capitalising on European excellence

Europe has long been a world leader in biotechnology and the life sciences and now needs to take a wider look at the sector’s growing potential to help meet the EU’s – as well as the wider world’s – socio-economic goals and challenges.

Europe’s main global competitors are also making major headway in the life science and biotechnology. If the Union wishes to avoid playing an increasingly passive role, then it is vital that biotechnology is shaped to support European interests. In this context, it is vital that the EU and national governments set the framework conditions for the European biotechnology sector to flourish.

Fertile ground for a bio-economy

In recognition of the growing importance of the bio-economy, the European Commission has organised this conference in Brussels (BE), on 15 and 16 September 2005, on ‘The knowledge-based bio-economy: Transforming life sciences knowledge into new, sustainable, eco-efficient and competitive products’.

Under the auspices of the UK Presidency of the EU, the high-profile gathering brings together policy-makers and civil servants, as well as representatives from industry, academia and civil society. Together, they are set to chart a course towards a modern knowledge-based bio-economy.

Among the participants are Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik and Alun Michael, the UK’s Minister of State for Industry and the Regions.

The conference aims to prompt decision-makers, funding agency managers, scientists and other stakeholders to develop flexible and well-adapted strategies that create the right climate for the introduction of bio-economic principles into the life sciences and biotechnology research and development culture.

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