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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:

Related policy areas in other Directorate-Generals

Directorate-General for Research and Innovation

Joint Research Centre

Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development

Directorate-General for Health and Consumers