Development of biotechnology and bioproduction in the EU

Rozwój biotechnologii i bioprodukcji w UE

The European Commission, faced with observed climate change and a desire to reduce dependence on fossil energy resources, is betting on the development of biotechnology and bioproduction. In its latest communication entitled Building the future from nature: supporting biotechnology and bioproduction in the EU outlines a number of steps in this direction. Current developments in life sciences, supported by digitization and artificial intelligence, make biotechnology and bioproduction among the most promising technological areas of the current century. They can help the EU, among others. in the modernization of the agriculture, forestry, energy, food, feed and industrial sectors.

Development of biotechnology and bioproduction – importance for the industry

Biotechnology and bioproduction are affecting various industries, such as chemicals and food. For example, biorefineries – plants used to convert biomass into a range of bio-based materials – can also convert wood into innovative products with high value additives: biochemicals, insulation foams, biocomposites, engineering foams, etc. Another example is the textile sector, where biotechnology is an environmentally sustainable alternative, particularly in dyeing, printing and finishing processes.

Enzymatic processing reduces water and energy consumption, helping to reduce environmental impact. In the agri-food sector, biotechnology increases yields and resistance to pests and diseases, instead reducing environmental impact and improving food quality and nutritional value. The development of biotechnology and bioproduction is also important in water and wastewater management, as we wrote about in a previous article Biotechnology in water and wastewater management and its impact on wastewater treatment .

Development of biotechnology and bioproduction – EC proposals

The biotechnology and bioproduction sector faces challenges related to research and technology transfer to the market, regulatory complexity, access to financing, skills, value chain obstacles, intellectual property, public acceptance and economic security. Accordingly, the EC has proposed the following ways to support the development of biotechnology and bioproduction in the EU:

  • Harnessing research and spurring innovation: to help identify factors that spur innovation and foster technology adoption, the European Commission has launched a study that will show the EU’s position relative to other world leaders in biotechnology production and the transition to a bioproduction industry. It will also look for ways to accelerate the development and use of the biotechnology industry’s innovation infrastructure and synthetic biology gas pedal (EU IBISBA);
  • Increase in market demand: in order to succeed in the market, bioproducts must have a lower environmental impact compared to petrochemicals, for example. The European Commission will review evaluations of fossil-fuel and bio-based products to ensure equivalent treatment and to include a method for storing carbon in building materials. It will also conduct an in-depth impact assessment of the feasibility of bio-based ingredient content requirements in specific product categories and public procurement;
  • Streamlining regulatory pathways: The European Commission will assess how EU legislation and its implementation can be simplified to reduce any fragmentation, uncover potential simplifications and reduce the time it takes to bring innovations to market. By the end of 2024. will also push for the establishment of an EU Biotechnology Center, an operational tool to help companies discern the regulatory framework and find support to expand their operations;
  • Promoting public and private investment: The EU has a wide range of financial instruments with which it can support biotechnology and bioproduction, such as the Horizon Europe, including the Joint Undertaking for a Closed Circuit Biotechnology Europe (CBE JU) and the Joint Undertaking for the Health Innovation Initiative (IHI JU); the EU Health Program (EU4Health); the Innovation Fund, and most recently, the Strategic Technology Platform for Europe (STEP);
  • Expanding biotechnology-related skills: large-scale skills partnerships and regional skills partnerships can play an important role in upgrading and re-skilling biotechnology and bioproduction;
  • Development and updating of standards: The European Commission will encourage the development and updating of European standards for biotechnology and bioproduction to facilitate market access and innovation;
  • Promoting cooperation and synergies: The European Commission will encourage the deployment of technologies related to biotechnology processes and bioproduction through regional innovation valleys;
  • Promoting international engagement and cooperation: The European Commission will explore the possibility of establishing international biotechnology and bioproduction partnerships with key international partners such as the United States, India, Japan and South Korea to collaborate on research and technology transfer, as well as on regulatory and market access issues. The European Commission, as part of the Global Gateway strategy and in line with the Global Health Strategy, will strengthen existing partnerships with Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean region in the manufacture of health products to diversify global supply chains, overcome shortages of critical health products and reduce the burden of disease;
  • Use of artificial intelligence and generative AI: The European Commission will promote structured exchanges with stakeholders to accelerate the deployment of AI solutions, particularly generative AI in biotechnology and bioproduction. In 2024. will also work to raise awareness of EuroHPC’s facilitated access to supercomputers for AI start-ups and the scientific community and knowledge and innovation community;
  • Bioeconomy strategy review: by the end of 2025. The European Commission will review the EU’s bioeconomy strategy, which will address current social, demographic and environmental challenges, strengthen the industrial dimension of the bioeconomy and its links to biotechnology and bioproduction to help strengthen the EU economy.

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