A successful bio-based European economy lies in a cutting-edge industrial biotechnology sector. Industrial biotechnology is an industry in which Europe is a world leader, producing more than 60% of the world’s enzymes.
In the industrial biotechnology area different company types, such as multinational enterprises (MNEs), small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as start-ups, which are dedicated to industrial biotechnology or diversified over a broader range of areas, can be found.
There has been a big shift in recent years toward more holistic policy initiatives for supporting the bioeconomy. While many activities are still conducted at a national level, the European Commission has introduced a series of initiatives to support and set in motion the roll out of the “Bioeconomy Strategy” which was adopted in 2012. Since then, the Strategy has grown stronger, through a number of support frameworks
Research and innovation for industrial biotech
With a budget of nearly €80b over seven years, Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU research program to date, and one of the biggest publicly funded research and innovation programs worldwide. Policymakers agreed on three main pillars for the new funding program: “Excellent Science” (pillar I) “Industrial Leadership” (pillar II) and “Societal challenges” (pillar III)
Under the second pillar of “Industrial Leadership”, clear recognition was given to the industrial biotechnology sector by the Commission when it named industrial biotechnology a “Key Enabling Technology” (KET) that can boost the European economy, ensuring that the EU remains sustainable, globally competitive and a center for excellence in science. Europe is seeing a shift in EU funding policy away from support for research and applied research only, toward funding research linked to development and innovation. Thanks to these developments, bridging the “valley of death” from concept to market, becomes more of a reality.
Key Enabling Technologies are technologies that enable the development of new goods and services and the restructuring of industrial processes needed to modernise EU industry and make the transition to a knowledge-based and low carbon resource-efficient economy. Industrial biotechnology was identified as one of the six key enabling technologies by the European Commission.
More information on the Horizon 2020 calls can be found here.
Bio-based industries public private partnership
The Biobased Industries PPP is a multi-sector initiative funded by Horizon 2020 and BIC, the Biobased Industries Consortium, industry, with a vision of creating a society and economy which increasingly makes everyday products, such as food, feed, textiles, chemicals and fuels, from locally sourced biomass and wastes, rather than from fossil fuels. The initiative will create jobs in a broad range of sectors in Europe, triggering rural growth across regions while placing sustainability and the smart and efficient use of resources at its heart. In doing so, it will also aim to overcome the EU’s so-called “innovation valley of death” by bridging the gap between excellence in technology and success through EU commercialization of bio-based products. Worth €3.8b, the PPP aims to ensure smart, sustainable and inclusive economic growth, and should help Europe become a world leading bio-based economy.
SPIRE – Resources and Energy Efficiency public private partnership
SPIRE is a contractual Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between the European Union and a consortium of industries. It funded by Horizon 2020 and dedicated to innovation in resource and energy efficiency and enabled by the process industries. Its objective is to develop the enabling technologies and solutions along the value chain, required to reach long term sustainability for Europe in terms of global competitiveness, ecology and employment.
More specifically, SPIRE is addressing three fundamental European challenges:
- urgency to create growth and increase the competitiveness of Europe in a global market,
- need to rejuvenate the European process industry that is at the basis of the European economy in terms of turnover, employment and generation of technologies for all industrial sectors,
- imperative to reduce resource and energy inefficiency and the environmental impact of industrial activities Strong industry engagement, large participation, commitment across sectors and boundaries.
SPIRE gathers 8 industry sectors via European Technology Platforms and Industry Associations. Sectors such as cement, ceramics, chemicals, engineering, non ferrous metals, minerals, steel and water representing big and small companies, have joined forces and set up common aspirations for innovations in resource and energy efficiency in their sectors and beyond.
SusChem is the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry. It was created in 2004 as a joint initiative between Cefic, DECHEMA, EuropaBio,GDCh, ESAB and RSC with the main objective to revitalise and inspire European chemistry and industrial biotechnology research, development and innovation in a sustainable way.
SusChem addresses challenges that are specific to Research and Innovation in the European chemical industry and in the industrial biotechnology industries. It favours a value-chain vision, in full coordination with other industries and ETPs and in connection to the societal challenges expressed in the Innovation Union and in Horizon2020.
Regulatory framework of industrial biotechnology
EU legislation has been in place since the Nineties to cover the contained use of genetically modified microorganisms (GMMs). Directive 2009/41/EC lays down common measures for the contained use of GMMs aimed at protecting human health and the environment.
With Directive 2009/41/EC, Member States are required to take all measures necessary in order to avoid the contained use of GMMs having negative consequences on human health and the environment.
The contained use of GMMs requires an examination of the containment and protection measures taken, in order to avoid a release.
The assessment of GMM records shall result in a risk hierarchy of the contained uses consisting of four classes. The containment measures to be applied shall also be classified in a four-level hierarchy.
- Class 1: No or negligible risk, level 1 containment;
- Class 2: Low risk, level 2 containment;
- Class 3: Moderate risk, level 3 containment;
- Class 4: High risk, level 4 containment.
The Annexes to the Directive detail the criteria for assessing the risks of GMMs to health and the environment, as well as the protective measures for each of the four levels of containment.
Industrial biotechnology, an enabler of the European Bioeconomy
The bioeconomy encompasses the production of renewable biological resources and their conversion into food, feed, bio-based products and bioenergy via innovative and efficient technologies provided by Industrial Biotechnology.
It is already a reality and one that offers great opportunities and solutions to a growing number of major societal, environmental and economic challenges, including climate change mitigation, energy and food security and resource efficiency.
The European Bioeconomy Strategy
On 13 February 2012 the European Commission adopted its strategy on the bioeconomy. This represents a milestone in the recognition of the potential and value of the bioeconomy and its actors across Europe. Leading the world in transitioning to an economic model which uses more renewable resources is an ambitious goal.
This strategy proposes a comprehensive approach to address the ecological, environmental, energy, food supply and natural resource challenges that Europe and indeed the world are facing already today.
The strategy is not a new piece of legislation. Rather it aims to focus Europe’s common efforts in the right direction in this diverse and fast-changing part of the economy.
The European Industrial Policy
Bio-based products, enabled by industrial biotechnology, were also identified has one of the six priority action lines for investment by the industrial renaissance policy of the European Commission.
Other useful documents
- Eurobarometer report on Biotechnology – European Commission, 2010
- Consequences, opportunities and challenges of modern biotechnology in Europe – JRC Reference Report, 2007