Biotechnology Strategy and action plan (Extract from Commission press release on preparations for the Competitiveness Council of 26 Nov)

November 26, 2002

Brussels, 25 th November 2002

The Council is expected to adopt conclusions, a road-map of actions ahead, providing for specific measures, priorities, an indication of responsibilities and a timetable for implementation based on the European Commission's action plan. The Council is expected to take a strategic view on the plan, which will mark a starting point for a process and framework of co-operation in all the main areas needed for responsible development of biotechnology in Europe.

Within the €17.5 billion 6 th EU Research Framework Programme (FP6 2003-2006), the Commission will devote €2.225 billion to life sciences and biotechnology. Biotech applications include health care, agriculture and foodstuffs, industrial products such as new materials and bio-plastics, and clean technologies, for instance based on enzymes.

Biotech policies have to be based on sound scientific evidence, via an open and democratic debate. This is a key sector for science and economic growth: if Europe stands on the sidelines and does not take the necessary steps, it risks losing an important opportunity. The biotechnology action plan aims at strengthening the biotech science base, networking Europe's biotechnology players, screening biotech impact on health and the environment, fostering responsible governance and public dialogue, as well as allowing EU citizens and consumers to make informed choices.

Other key issues to be addressed include human resources: Europe is lacking skilled researchers and entrepreneurs in the biotech field. Access to finance is also a problem for biotech start-ups and innovative SMEs: they need risk and venture capital that is not always available in Europe. Intellectual property rights are also instrumental for the growth of the sector in Europe.

Background:

In line with the conclusions of the European Council in Stockholm which recognised the contribution of biotechnology to the achievement of European competitiveness objectives, the Commission adopted a Communication on "Life Sciences and Biotechnology: a strategy for Europe" in January 2002, including a comprehensive 30-point action plan. The Communication is based on an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the biotechnology sector in Europe and a comprehensive consultation with a broad variety of stakeholders' views. The European Council in Barcelona invited the Commission and the Council to develop measures and a timetable to make it possible for European enterprises to make the most of the potential of biotechnology.

The Danish Presidency foresees the adoption of comprehensive conclusions that group together the main actions for the responsible development of biotechnology.

The conclusions are expected to state that the potential offered by life sciences and biotechnology in areas such as healthcare, agriculture and food, industrial products and processes and environmental protection should be continuously assessed as regards benefits and risks. The EU should also keep a close eye on economic, social and environmental consequences and ethical aspects. The development of a competitive biotechnology industry in the EU requires a comprehensive and co-ordinated policy approach covering all major areas of biotechnology application.

There should also be a strengthening of the value creation chain (human and financial resources, transposition of ideas from research to the market, networks and clusters, pro-active role of administrations).

Responsible governance (participation of society, regulatory framework, and international and development co-operation) should also be ensured.

The adoption of these comprehensive conclusions will establish an important framework for co-operation between the Commission and the Member States in the implementation of the strategy.

DN: MEMO/02/265 Date: 25/11/2002

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