Philippe Busquin: Biotechnology, Research and Innovation in Europe Belgian-Danish for Innovation in Biotechnology Brussels, Hilton Hotel - 29 May 2002

May 30, 2002

Brussels, Hilton Hotel - 29 May 2002

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to participate in the opening ceremony of this forum.

I would like to congratulate the organisers on the initiative of the forum, which is intended to foster networking between Danish and Belgian biotechnology researchers and entrepreneurs.

As you know, the stimulation of networks is at the heart of the Commission's action plan for biotechnology as well as of the next Research Framework Programme.

Danish and Belgian researchers and companies are well placed in the European biotechnology league.

In the period of 1995-2000, the number of biotechnology patents filed per million inhabitants was highest in Denmark 4 times higher the EU average. Belgium was third.

Of the 1570 biotech companies in Europe, according to the Ernst & Young study, 69 companies come from Belgium and 66 from Denmark. This makes Denmark and Belgium rank number 3 and 4 in the density of companies per population.

In the year 1999, Belgium and Denmark ranked number 2 and 3 in the table of venture capital invested in biotechnology per inhabitant. Denmark invested a record of 95 euro of venture capital per inhabitant in the year 2000. If Danish and Belgian science and industry team up, they could become strong players in the European Research and Innovation Area. I hope that today's forum will contribute to this partnering.

I would like to briefly expand on the action plan and on the research framework programme.

The Lisbon summit set the objective for Europe to become the most dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world. The Stockholm summit last year stressed the importance of biotechnology in this context.

Biotechnology is indeed the new frontier in science and technology and it can be a major driver of innovation and wealth creation in Europe.

The understanding of life and the responsible use of this new knowledge is today's industrial revolution.

Europe cannot afford to miss this new, global revolution. It will happen with or without us.

To help Europe deliver on the potential of the life sciences, the European Commission has presented at the beginning of this year a strategic vision for life sciences with a 30-point action plan.

The central message of the strategic vision is the need for coherence among all policies involved, such as research, industry, environment, health, internal market, trade and education.

Regulation should integrate international objectives and facilitate innovation. Research should stimulate cutting-edge and responsible science. Public health and consumer protection should encourage the development of new applications for the benefit of patients and consumers.

I would like to call on all Member States and regions to organise a large public debate on the implementation of the Commission's action plan. I hope that researchers would fully participate in such public debate.

But the development of biotechnology in Europe also requires coherence at a European level between efforts and investments of all Member States.

The challenges and opportunities are so big that we should maximise collaboration and minimise duplication.

As far as research and development are concerned, this is precisely the purpose of the next Framework Programme for Research.

The framework programmes have contributed to forming many links between researchers and companies in Europe. Under FP4, €120 million went to SMEs in the biotech sector. This has doubled to €250 million under FP5.

FP6 is now designed shift into higher gear and to help realise a true European Research and Innovation Area.

The objective is to integrate efforts and achieve critical mass on a small number of priorities that present European added value.

Genomics and biotechnology for health is the first priority with a total budget of €2,250 billion. But biotechnology will also feature under food safety, nanotechnology and sustainable development.

Special attention will be given to the participation of small companies in the European projects and networks.

The Commission is undertaking many other initiatives to help improve the conditions for biotech research and innovation in Europe.

I would like to cite a few:

We have an agreement with the European Investment Bank to offer complementary financing instruments for research and development.

We have set up a forum of national genomics research managers to better co-ordinate national investments.

With the help of a special European Group on Life Sciences, we are taking and supporting initiatives to innovate in the dialogue with society on biotechnology. For example, we will organise a big conference in the beginning of 2003 of biotechnology for development.

We hold regular round tables with all stakeholders on GMO safety research.

We organise a regular forum for biotechnology financing. Ladies and Gentlemen,

If we want Europe to lead the development biotechnology in the world in a responsible way, all actors need to be mobilised, not least society itself.

This means a strong networking between all actors.

Today's event is a perfect example of this networking and I hope that Danish and Belgian researchers will team up to help Europe fully enter the life sciences revolution.

If good ideas emerge from today's meeting, they will still be in time for the call for expressions of interest, which closes on 7 June.

Let me conclude on this little commercial for the research framework programme.

I wish you a productive forum.

DN: SPEECH/02/238 Date: 29/05/2002

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