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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs


To meet and balance the needs of our society, our economy and our planet, European companies are developing new processes and technologies that are based on biology. Biotechnology and life sciences help the EU to modernise its industry and agriculture, forestry, energy, food and feed sectors. They are used in a variety of industrial sectors such as textiles, chemicals, plastic, paper, food, feed, pharmaceuticals, and fuel processing. From healthcare to agriculture, biotechnology is revolutionising how we approach challenges and create solutions in our modern world. Taking advantage of biotechnology helps the EU economy grow and provides new jobs, while also supporting sustainable development, public health, and environmental protection.

What is biotechnology?

As defined by the OECD, biotechnology applies science and technology to living organisms, as well as parts, products and models of them, to alter living or non-living materials to produce knowledge, goods and services.

Biotechnology can be used to manufacture bio-based products (biomanufacturing). It can also be part of the solution to address many societal and environmental challenges, such as climate mitigation and adaptation, access to and sustainably using natural resources, restoring vital nature systems, food supply and security, and human health.

The advances in life sciences, supported bydigitalisation and artificial intelligence (AI), along with the potential of solutions based on biology to solve societal issues, all make biotechnology one of the most promising technological areas of this century.

Biotechnology’s contribution to the EU economy

This field encompasses a wide range of advanced technologies aimed at various application area. They include industrial and environmental (“white” biotechnology), agri-food (“green” biotechnology), and medical and pharmaceutical (“red” biotechnology). Marine biotechnology (so-called “blue”) is also gaining increased attention.

  • in healthcare and pharmaceutical applications, biotechnology has led to the discovery and development of advanced medicines, therapies, diagnostics, and vaccines. For example, it can help address challenges linked to ageing (such as disease prevention, personalised medicines, regenerative medicine and chronic illness) and antimicrobial resistance. Other applications like RNA therapeutics allowed the discovery of mRNA-based vaccines for COVID-19, saving millions of lives. Biotechnology has also improved animal health with the development of vaccines for livestock.
  • in agriculture, biotechnology supports a greener and more productive agriculture, by relying on natural means to increase plant defences or increase crop yield. For instance, biocontrol agents (BCA) provide alternative solutions to chemical pesticides by relying on on natural means to control pests, such as parasitism, predations, or other mechanisms to protect crops.
  • in industrial processes and manufacturing, biotechnology has led to the use of enzymes in the production of detergents, pulp and paper, textiles, and biomass. It has also enabled the alternative feedstock to manufacture polymers, plastics, solvents, paints, or cosmetics. Using sustainable carbon sources like sustainable biomass, recycled waste and CO2 captured from biogenic sources, contribute to emission reduction, resource efficiency and strategic autonomy.
  • in marine and aquaculture applications, biotech has led to several pharma innovations. It has contributed to environmental remediation solutions such as the cleanup of oil spills, plastic pollution, or wastewater treatment. Other market segments of interest for marine biotech include cosmetics, enzymes, chemicals, and bio-fertilisers.

What the Commission does

As biotechnology is used in a variety of economic sectors, it is necessary to analyse the market conditions in several different fields. These include biopharmaceuticals, chemicals and industrial processes, bio-based products, and agri-food applications. The Commission

The Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship, and SMEs (GROW) works on many policies which impact biotechnology. They include