Industrial biotechnology: Commission answers parliamentary question

December 19, 2003

Strasbourg, 18 December 2003

Verbatim report of proceedings on 17 December 2003, Part 2

Question no 45 by John Purvis (H-0726/03)
Subject: Industrial biotechnology

Would the Commission indicate its assessment of the potential of industrial (i.e. white) biotechnology in terms of the Lisbon objectives and sustainable development and state what priority it feels should be given thereto in terms of research effort and industrial policy?

Industrial/"white" biotechnology is very important in terms of both the Lisbon and Gothenburg objectives, e.g. promoting growth, competitiveness and employment, and supporting sustainable development. Consequently it should be a major beneficiary of industrial and research policy in Europe.

The Commission has carried out a series of analyses, which describe the status of white biotechnology in Europe and quantify its future potential in different sectors. An ongoing study shows that a broad variety of bio-based polymers is currently finding its way into industrial products and processes.

Biotechnology offers the prospect of reductions in raw material and energy consumption, as well as less pollution and recyclable and biodegradable waste, for the same level of industrial production.

An example of policy support is the strong emphasis of white biotechnology as a future high technology in European industry, which should be a major beneficiary of the Commission.s Strategy and Action Plan for the Life Sciences & Biotechnology. The EU's overall regulatory framework for white biotechnology being generally satisfactory, no systematic reform is foreseen in that area.

However, setting the right incentives and removing barriers for the further dissemination of white biotechnology remains a challenge for policy makers at Member States and European level. In this context the Commission has identified particular instances where there are obstacles to the diffusion of biotechnological processing into industrial use as well as measures to overcome them. With regard to research effort, internal estimates are that some hundreds of projects related to white biotechnology have been (or are being) financed under the 4th and 5th Framework Programmes.

The 6th Framework Programmes allocates more than €2 billion to research into sustainable development where industrial/white biotechnology can be expected to provide many of the solutions, although of course other technologies are also eligible.

The Commission has discussed with relevant scientific and industrial circles further policy steps which could facilitate developments.It notably intends to organise a "stakeholder workshop" early in 2004 to analyse how to promote white biotechnology using incentives for public private partnerships, such as, the EU framework programme or other European or national initiatives.

In conclusion: industrial/white biotechnology can be expected to be a major beneficiary both of EU industrial policy and of the EU's research expenditure, and in turn be a major contributor to competitiveness and sustainable industrial development in Europe.

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