New bioeconomy initiative in Finland to support SMEs
The bioeconomy is growing at an unprecedented rate, and the demand for new services and more efficient tools to boost business in this industry is ever increasing. Because of this growth, the need for management of biological information is proving to be vital in keeping up with demand and new concepts. This is evident with the latest figures, which reveal that the global market for bioinformatics is expected to reach more than EUR 4.5 billion next year. In order to home in on this demand, Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, has devised a concept aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Its focus is on developing new business from the management of biological information.
The 'Solutions for Biological Information' (BioIT) programme, funded with EUR 10 million (EUR 6.5 million of which are provided by Tekes), with the rest of the funding coming from relevant companies within the industry. The project will run for 2 years. It will support strategic focus areas such as promoting growth and internationalisation of SMEs by combining the development of digital and service solutions with the vitality of the thematic areas of cooperation, health, the knowledge-based bio-economy (KBBE), and information and communications technology (ICT).
It also aims to build new value networks and cooperation between biotechnology ICT players. So, utilising the knowledge and experience of experts such as biologists, geneticists and environmental scientists, and combining this with ICT expertise, will be key. There are already 40 specialist companies within this field, and it is expected that there will be further opportunities for growth and renewal for both new and well-established players.
The programme covers areas such as the development of pharmaceuticals, which requires in-depth knowledge of the biological origins of illnesses. This is an area where the development of high data-processing capacity can create opportunities for SMEs within pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies. Likewise, for the food industry, knowledge within nutrition science can help develop healthier and safer food products. Furthermore, knowledge within the biosector can help to produce solutions for environmental issues, such as the quality of air, soil and water..
Tekes Programme Manager Teppo Tuomikoski says: 'In line with Tekes strategy, the programme catalyses new businesses and helps transform industries. [Like] its clients, the programme is agile and relies strongly on networking.'
The EU regards life science and biotech sectors as important areas of development, with the European Commission promoting the interests — both academic and commercial — of the sector across the globe. Last year the European Commission introduced a Strategy and Action Plan to develop a strong Bioeconomy to help Europe live within its limits ensuring sustainable exploitation of biological resources thus allowing the production of more from less.
In line with this, regular Bioeconomy Stakeholder Conferences are planned within the Action Plan. In February, the European Commission in collaboration with the Irish Presidency, will host the 2nd Stakeholder Conference - "Bioeconomy in the EU: achievements and directions for the future". The aim is to ensure the development of the bioeconomy remains high on Europe's agenda, as well as evaluating the progress achieved to date, in relation to the proposed Action Plan.