In January 2020, EuropaBio finalised a vision document with key recommendations for stimulating a successful life sciences and biotechnology ecosystem in the EU. We firmly believe that capturing the full potential of biotechnology is fundamental to finding new solutions to the global challenges facing Europe in health and ageing; climate change; food supply; digital, and industrial transformations; and sustainable economic, environmental, and societal development.
Since then, the European Commission has published its flagship initiatives - the European Green Deal, the Industrial Strategy, and the Digital Strategy. The spread of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has had a disconcerting effect on the health of citizens, the sustainability of the EU economy and its political structures. As the severity of the pandemic became evident, so too did the importance of the life sciences and biotechnology sector. Public officials, regulators, and citizens alike looked eagerly to biotech companies to provide solutions such as vaccines, anti-viral treatments, diagnostics, and more.
The European post-COVID-19 environment will require a period of reflection. The biotechnology sector, as a strong contributor to EU's knowledge-based economy, should continue to be prioritised going forward. In this context, EuropaBio's vision document outlines eight key pillars for how life sciences and biotechnology will help achieve a healthier and more sustainable Europe that swiftly recovers from the current crisis and delivers for its citizens, its regions, and its economy:
The following summarises the key political recommendations:
Capital and financing: a multi-sectoral forum for best practices on risk mitigation in financing; policies for attracting and growing investment; a more unified and better capitalised public market for life sciences R&D; de-risking of early-phase private Research & Development & Innovation; a 'one stop shop' for biotech SMEs seeking support from funding to regulatory and beyond; a dedicated European Bio Economy Strategic Investment Fund; increased funding and improved coherence of financing mechanisms for the circular bioeconomy.
Skills and labour: EU-wide indicators to identify best practices for integrating and promoting STEM subjects in education curricula; best practices for academic excellence between biotechnology clusters; tailored educational programmes to equip tomorrow's workforce with the necessary skills; extended Erasmus programme to include young entrepreneurs.
R&D and innovation: a robust EU 'general plan for risk communication'; mainstreaming of the Innovation Principle; endorsement of the Responsible Research and Innovation approach; regulatory and scientific requirements focused on products and their benefit for society.
Intellectual Property and incentives: strong incentives and a dynamic market environment for start-ups, SMEs and companies in general; a timely and uniform application of the Unitary Patent.
Manufacturing: increased funding for KETs under the new Horizon Europe programme, and reduced submission requirements for SME applicants; encouraged use of bio-based alternatives in relevant sectors; mainstreamed life sciences and biotechnology throughout the KETs; smart manufacturing biotech hubs in stronger regional networks.
Digitalisation: common standards for data collection with pooled and streamlined processes; voluntary sharing and reuse of citizens' data; voluntary sharing of non-regulatory data subject to intellectual property, confidentiality, contract law and other rights.
Regional development: regional funding in areas that have the highest return on investment; life sciences and biotechnology at the heart of the Smart Specialisation Platform; incentives to invest in less-developed regions; geographic dashboards comparing which developing regions have/are creating the right environment to attract life science and biotechnology investment.
Global competitiveness: less fragmentation of the EU single market for increased global competitiveness; a 'bottom-up' Single Market Strategy and a pilot programme at border regions to test possible solutions to these problems in a 'regulatory sandbox'; science-based policy and decision-making; a cross-DG European Commission Task Force to scale up successful pilots and implement large-scale harmonisation measures; attracting investment and building European champions; an ambitious PPP on bio-based industries and innovative health; attracting the most promising talent post-Brexit.
Investing in a strong life sciences and biotechnology ecosystem will be key to create the innovation engine Europe needs. Few other industries directly provide for our health and sustainability while stimulating investment, innovation, and employment. Empowering the biotechnology industry ensures support for SMEs, and offers a host of indirect opportunities for growth across manufacturing, supply chains, education, and research.
The stronger our life sciences and biotechnology ecosystem is, the better prepared Europe will be to confront future global challenges. We face continued threats to our health which will put inevitable strain on healthcare systems and our medical supply chains. Operationalising the Industrial Strategy is key in order to meet the European Green Deal objectives of climate-neutrality and a truly circular economy.
Europe needs to be at the forefront of the global response and post-COVID 19 recovery. Our combined efforts will ensure a swift economic and societal recovery, allowing Europe to lead by example. EuropaBio's ambitious vision for the life sciences and biotechnology sector provides a strategic way forward to underpin the European Green Deal, the Industrial Strategy and the realisation of our common goal of healthy people and a sustainable planet
Download the full document below.