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Inventory and analysis of national public policies that stimulate research in life sciences and biotechnology, its exploitation and commercialisation by industry in Europe in the period 2001-2004

Final Report Summary - BIOPOLIS (Inventory and analysis of national public policies that stimulate research in life sciences and biotechnology, its exploitation and commercialisation by industry ...)

Modern biotechnology is one of today's key enabling technologies. It has become the driving force of dramatic changes in innovation processes in many sectors. However, the development and implementation of biotechnology is rather diverse across countries. Although part of the explanation might come from historical, geographical, economic or demographic factors, government policy measures are an important key for understanding why biotechnology shows such large differences in growth patterns between countries. Policy makers have developed a variety of different policies and policy instruments to foster biotechnology innovation processes. The first aim of BIOPOLIS was to provide an up to date and detailed overview of these national and regional biotechnology policies and policy instruments for the period 2002-2005 in all EU Member States, four Accession Countries, and Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. The second aim was to assess the effectiveness of biotechnology policies by exploring the relationship between national policy approaches towards biotechnology and the performance of the respective national biotechnology innovation systems.

A number of methodological issues are relevant to the success of a study such as BIOPOLIS, but the most important is the availability of comparable data. Although we made an extensive Guidebook that allowed for a comparative methodological approach that was used in all country studies, for a number of countries it was not possible to provide a complete overview of instruments and funding. We are confident that the overview of biotechnology specific instruments is rather complete, and in most old Member States and Associated Countries this also holds true for the generic instruments and the non-policy directed funding. Moreover, in these countries the comparability of data is rather high, as data collection tends to comply, for instance, to OECD guidelines. In addition, consultancy firms have collected data on high tech biotechnology firms for many years.

However, the availability and comparability of such data was rather poor in most of the new Member States and Accession Countries. It was very difficult to locate the relevant persons in government and funding organisations that could provide us with the information we needed. Once found they were mostly very willing to cooperate, but some of these contacts did not respond. One of the reasons might be that some countries lack of a tradition for collecting and presenting data on instruments and funds for specific technology fields. This implies that the data presented in some national case studies and this Final Report are underestimates of the biotechnology funding in those countries and thus also in Europe. Furthermore, in some case rough estimates were used for some instruments.

For the performance analysis of New Member States and Accession Countries only publication data could be used, although they have to be treated with great caution as many publications are still in national languages not covered by the database used (SCI). Performance in publications and citations reflects the uptake of English and the integration into the international scientific community. For New Member States and Accession Countries the number of dedicated firms is not yet collected in a comparable and systematic way. Comparative data about the biotech activities of diversified biotech companies (number of firms, employees active in biotech; size of their biotech activities) are not available for any of the 32 countries. Nevertheless, the overall results of BIOPOLIS are very valuable as they provide an in-depth overview and cross country analysis of the national biotechnology policies which can be an important input to national policy learning processes and contribute to the development of more effective biotechnology policies in Europe.

The focus of first and second generation innovation policies was on the research and education system, the business system, framework conditions, infrastructure and intermediaries. However, the systems approach of the second generation seems to have neglected the role of the government and its constituent part (the policy system). As our results show that policy coordination 'pays', it is highly recommended that national governments close the 'coordination gap'; not only between national departments, but also between national and regional governments and international institutions. This involves coordination of simultaneous policy actions addressing the core set of innovation policies such as science, technology and education, as well as a re-direction of policy actions that pursue other primary objectives such as public health and regional development.

Particularly due to the complex nature of biotechnology innovation processes, a broad and up-to-date information base and the inclusion of different perspectives are important prerequisites for the design of successful policies. This can be achieved by enabling meaningful participation by non-government biotechnology actors - particularly representatives of the scientific community, industry, but also consumer and patient groups - in the policy process. Apart from the composition of the biotechnology policy arena, managing the processes within such a policy network warrants special attention. A higher intensity of mutual information exchanges, not only between the responsible ministries and agencies but also within a broader set of non-government actors involved in biotechnology, may help to mitigate potentially damaging conflicts within the policy network, contribute to the development of shared understanding, and eventually foster policy-learning.