Biotechnology Industry in the European Union

The biotech industry in Europe spends nearly $7.32 billion in R&D and $23.2 billion in revenue. Around 20% of the total marketed medicines, and as much as 50% of all drugs that are in the pipeline, are all healthcare biotech products. The European biotech industry provides employment to approximately 95,000 people.

European nations with maximum number of biotech firms include France, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. The amount of biotech firms almost doubled in the mid-90s. As per an EC report, past few years have been characterized by consolidation instead of growth and that during the period from 2001-2003, employment rate dropped by as much as 4%.

Biotechnology sector makes a substantial contribution to the fundamental EU policy objectives, such as job creation, economic growth, ageing society, public health, environmental protection and sustainable development.

In 2002, the European Commission adopted a broad and comprehensive action plan and strategy for the establishment and development of biotech-based products to make sure that policies concerning biotechnology are implemented in Europe consistently and efficiently. A mid-term review conducted in 2007 brought out the fact that the implementation of the policies had proved effective and successful during the first four years of implementation. In addition, it revealed that five new priorities were clearly outlined for the 2007-2010 period. Among other things, a better and more convenient access to more efficient technology transfer and finance were also discussed.


The number of firms that are a part of the biotechnology industry in the European Union has increased by two folds during the middle of the 1990s, with the major strides in terms of discoveries and investments in the sector. The major countries in the European Union that came up in this sector included Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France, UK and Sweden. In the year 2004, Europe had a total of 2,163 companies in the biotechnology sector, while the United States of America had 1,991 companies. However, there may actually be as many as 3,154 companies in the European Union in reality, since some of the member countries were not covered by the survey.

Key Players:

Following are some key players of the European Union with regards to the biotech industry:

Germany: Germany is one of the leading global biotech players and accommodates maximum number of biotech-based companies when compared to the other EU members. The German biotech industry comprises four important segments including agricultural biotech, industrial biotech, medical biotech and service and suppliers. Germany offers favorable investment options in the biotech sector. Some of the largest and most reputed biotech clusters are located around Rhine-Neckar Triangle (Heidelberg), Cologne/Düsseldorf, Berlin/Brandenburg and Munich.

Germany has a highly innovative R&D, with a research landscape comprising 330 research institutes and 343 universities that work in cooperation with the biotech companies to help them in discovering newer and more effective products.

Besides, Germany boasts of a highly skilled personnel. In fact the number of natural science PhDs in Germany is more than that in the US and Japan.

The UK: It’s the research expertise in biotechnology that has made it possible for the UK to emerge as the second largest biotech industry among the EU nations. It has got a well-developed R&D sector. The UK government is also working towards increasing technology transfer facilities and funding to the biotech firms.

France: France has the fourth largest biotech industry in Europe. Over the past couple of decades, France has made incredible progress in the biotech industry. With more than 300 biotech firms and over 600 biotech service and support companies, France offers a favorable investment climate to companies planning to invest in the biotech sector. France boasts of a distinctly diversified industrial base.

The French biotech industry employs approximately 6,000 people, more than 50% of whom are involved in R&D activities. France also provides the foreign investors a favorable environment for partnerships. In addition, France boasts of a broad range of support mechanisms and programs available in the field of biotech. Biotech firms in France are eligible for several innovation support measures, including the innovative new companies’ scheme (Jeunes Entreprises Innovantes or JEI) and Research Tax Credit (Credit d’Impot Recherche or CIR).

Why to invest in the European Biotech industry:

To improve the investment climate pertaining biotech industry, the European Commission has taken up the task to recognize and suggest suitable remedies that the biotech sector may face in other fields. Also, since biotechnology finds application in various economic sectors, the European Commission had recognized the importance of analyzing the market conditions in other fields, especially in agro-food applications, bio-based products, chemicals and industrial processes and biopharmaceuticals.
Also, the biotech industry is very important for pharmaceutical research.

As is the case, a growing number of innovative, life-saving medicines find their origin in biotech research works. For example living microorganisms or their derivatives are being used for therapeutic purposes rather than being used merely as chemical substances in traditional medicines. The European Commission is well aware of the fact that the biotech products are very complicated and developing and testing them requires a significant amount of investment. Hence, the European commission has planned to create an ideal investment environment- one that not only rewards innovation but also eliminates inessential economic, administrative and regulatory obstacles.


The European Commission’s Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry website offers updated coverage of the enterprise policies of the European Union in terms of the Biotechnology Sector. In addition, it offers the latest news and changes in the industry as well as relevant statistics for the biotechnology sector.


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