Biotechnology and life sciences contribute to the modernisation of European industry. They are used in a variety of industrial sectors such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, animal health, textiles, chemicals, plastic, paper, fuel, food, and feed processing. Taking advantage of biotechnology helps the EU economy grow and provides new jobs, while also supporting sustainable development, public health, and environmental protection.
Biotechnology’s contribution to the EU economy
The main applications of biotechnology in the EU economy can be classified into three broad groups:
- In healthcare and pharmaceutical applications, biotechnology has led to the discovery and development of advanced medicines, therapies, diagnostics, and vaccines. For example, biotechnological breakthroughs have created new medicines for patients suffering from growth diseases, metabolic diseases, multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
- In agriculture, livestock, veterinary products, and aquaculture, biotechnology has improved animal feed, produced vaccines for livestock, and improved diagnostics for detecting diseases such as BSE, foot and mouth disease, and salmonella. It has also enabled the use of enzymes for more efficient food processing and improved the breeding of plants to obtain desired characteristics.
- In industrial processes and manufacturing, biotechnology has led to the use of enzymes in the production of detergents, pulp and paper, textiles, and biomass. By using fermentation and enzyme biocatalysis instead of traditional chemical synthesis, higher process efficiency can be obtained, decreasing energy and water consumption. This leads to a reduction in toxic waste.
What the Commission does
The European Commission aims to identify and remedy obstacles to the biotechnology industry. As biotechnology is used in 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 agro-food applications. The Commission:
- implemented a broad strategy and action plan for the development of life sciences and biotechnology-based products between 2002 and 2010. This included setting priorities for better access to finance and technology transfer for biotechnology between 2007 and 2010
- made its life sciences and biotechnology strategy part of the Europe 2020 strategy and the Innovation Union flagship programme.
The Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship, and SMEs works on many policies which impact biotechnology. They include:
- Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions "For a European Industrial Renaissance" - COM/2014/014 final of 22/01/2014
- Council Regulation establishing the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking - (EU)560/2014 of 06/05/2014
- Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on "Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe" - COM(2012)60 final of 13/02/2012
- Lead Market Initiative - Ad-hoc Advisory Group for Bio-based Products: Priority Recommendations (23 KB)
- Taking bio-based from Promise to Market - report from the Ad-hoc Advisory Group for Bio-based Products in the framework of the European Commission’s Lead Market Initiative
- The financing of biopharmaceutical product development in Europe: study conducted by DG Enterprise and Industry and the Danish Technological Institute
- Bio4EU study - "Consequences, opportunities and challenges of modern biotechnology for Europe", JRC Reference Reports
- BioPolis - study on national public Biotechnology policies, source: Directorate General for Research, Biosociety
- Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the "Mid-term review of the strategy on Life Sciences and Biotechnology" - COM(2007)175 final of 10/04/2007
- User Guide to European Regulation in Biotechnology (1 MB): study conducted by the European Commission and LGC Limited, London
- Benchmarking of public biotechnology policy (783 KB): study conducted by DG Enterprise and Industry and the Systems and Innovation Research Institute (ISI)
- Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions "Life sciences and biotechnology - A strategy for Europe" - COM(2002)27 final 02/03/2002 and 2007, 2005, 2004 and 2003 progress report
Related policy areas in other Directorate-Generals
Directorate-General for Research and Innovation
- Bio-based industries
- Innovative Medicines Initiative
- Intellectual property
- EU-US Task Force on Biotechnology Research
Joint Research Centre
Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development
Directorate-General for Health and Consumers