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On the initiative of Mrs Edith Cresson, Member of the Commission responsible for research, innovation, education, training and youth, the Commission and the European Association of Security Dealers (EASD) has decided to set up a "Biotechnology and Finance" forum. This forum should allow the development of links between the scientific and industrial community (researchers, "campus companies", etc) and the financial sphere (investors, etc), thereby promoting the development of the European biotechnology industry.
It is well known that the expansion of biotechnology is slower in Europe than, for example, in the United States. Whereas the American biotechnology industry currently employs more than 120 000 persons, in Europe, there are only about 27 500 jobs in this sector (note 1). In addition, the turnover of the European biotechnology industry is almost ten times lower than that of the American industry (note 2).
Although the European Union does have a substantial research potential in the field of life sciences and technologies, applications have not reached the level one could expect. Efforts must therefore be made in the public sector to facilitate the development of the long-ignored sector of "bioproducts" and allow our companies to benefit from a world market that could be worth ECU 100 000 million and about 200 000 new jobs by the year 2000 - mostly in the areas of health and environment,
Foremost among the factors responsible for the unfavourable situation in Europe is an apparent inability to translate research results into marketable products and processes. This is at least partly due to the difficulties encountered by the many small, dynamic, and innovative companies involved in obtaining the necessary financial resources, assistance, and advice needed to support the first phase of their development. Such companies are often created by university researchers and currently constitute the driving force behind the scientific and industrial development of biotechnology.
Creating a European innovation culture and, in particular, improving the conditions for financing innovation are some of the concrete measures contained in the "Action plan for innovation" published earlier this year by the Commission. In fact, one of the plan’s proposals is to set up information and advice services intended for investors and participants in the EU’s research programmes.
Linking research with investment
Announcing the creation of this forum, Mrs Cresson underlined the fact that "In Europe, there is still too big a gap between those involved in research and technological development and the financial community. To develop new technologies is one thing; ensuring their dissemination and their use is another, and the latter stage is essential to allow our companies to enjoy the benefits expected in terms of growth and job creation. In this context, this forum should improve the links between European research and potential investors, and in particular venture capital".
According to the Chairman of EASD, Mr Didier Duhem: "Now Europe has pan-European financial markets allowing, like NASDAQ, the financing of European biotechnology companies. These markets have proved that they were capable of simultaneously raising new funds for companies and providing venture-capital investors with the necessary returns, which could be reinvested in new companies. Now that this virtuous circle has been initiated, nothing prevents the European biotechnology industry from benefiting from the same level of funding as has been enjoyed by its American counterpart".
The forum aims at carrying out various activities to bring industrialists, researchers, and the financial community closer together: presentations of companies and projects to institutional investors, studies, European conferences, etc. The first initiatives for the "Biotechnology and Finance" forum are planned for the beginning of 1998 and will consist of a major conference (in April) and the publication of a study on the financial needs of the biotechnology sphere in Europe.For additional information, please contact :
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|Biotechnology in figures (1997)|
|Number of companies||716||1287|
|Number of jobs||27.500||118.000|
|R&D expenditure ||1.508||6.320|