Building our Bio Future: Policy Issues and Opportunities for Next Generation Biotechnologies

Sophie Peresson
Sophie Peresson
May 07, 2024 / 4 min read

Global crises, ranging from climate change to emerging health threats, are driving the need and demand for transformative solutions to catalyze sustainability transitions and enable resilience. Emerging technologies, like next-generation biotechnologies, are already fundamentally reshaping our societies and will thus play a key role in delivering these much-needed transformations.

Countries around the world are rapidly ramping up their biotechnology capabilities. Engineering biology along with gene editing, gene drives, and biomanufacturing promises a revolution across many sectors and offers solutions to global and local societal challenges. However, significant policy challenges remain and should be addressed to foster trust and uptake. Key questions to address include: balancing open science with biosecurity, building resilient value chains, scaling of biotechnology innovations, and bridging biotechnology divides across the globe.

The OECD Global Forum on Technology event Building our Biofuture: Policy issues and opportunities for next generation biotechnologies has recently brought together policymakers and next-generation biotechnology experts (researchers, industry, international organizations, and NGOs), to work together to discuss the key trends in biotechnology that shape society, explore open policy questions, and discuss the potential opportunities for international collaboration and strategic dialogue.

Anticipatory governance and responsible innovation
Anticipatory governance can be defined as “governing in the present to adapt to or shape uncertain futures” and is arguably critical in the fast-paced change occurring in domains such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and environmental protection given the opportunities and challenges that they present. Late April, Ministers also welcomed a new OECD Framework for the Anticipatory Governance of Emerging Technologies that promotes responsible innovation to help realize the transformative potential of emerging technologies while managing potential risks.

While innovations resulting from the rapid development of new technologies have the potential to contribute to prosperity and address grand challenges such as climate change and inequality, their impacts on society, individuals, and the environment are uncertain. Developing and managing anticipatory innovation ecosystems as vehicles for knowledge generation, innovation governance, and coordinated action to bring about preferred futures is key.

EU action on the future of biotechnology
Biotechnology is one of the fastest-growing innovative industries in the EU, contributing around 31 billion euros to the EU’s GDP and growing twice as fast as the overall economy between 2008 and 2018. On March 20, 2024, the EU Commission published its Communication on Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing, setting out the broad range of financing instruments available to support biotechnology and biomanufacturing in the block including initiatives like the Circular Bio-based European Joint Undertaking, Invest EU Innovation Fund and Horizon Europe provide funding for businesses.

The Commission also notes that biotechnology will benefit from the upcoming Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (STEP), which aims to boost investments in critical technologies across the digital, clean, and biotech sectors. Finally, the Commission will launch a study to identify barriers and ways to support the consolidation of investment funds, stock exchanges, and post-trading infrastructure to better fund later-stage growth of EU high-tech scale-up businesses, including in biotech.

Further support for SMEs is available through the Commission’s GenAI4EU initiative on generative AI as an investment of €500 million by 2027 with biotechnology as one of the priority sectors. Horizon Europe continues to provide investment in biotechnology and biomanufacturing from early-stage research to investments in individual startups and SMEs across Europe.

A communication is certainly a good starting point, but moving forward it is critical to call for greater ambition and implementation of biotechnology as a recognized critical technology for economic security.

While a potential EU Biotech Act is welcome, concrete actions to address current bottlenecks to European growth are urgently needed. In addition, high-level leadership and a multistakeholder approach to drive the implementation of this initiative will be critical to successful delivery.

How Trilligent can help navigate this space
As a global advisory and strategic communications firm, Trilligent supports companies and startups navigate the investment and regulatory environment, helping you gain a competitive edge by embedding the regulatory environment into your strategy.

Reach out to us to have a chat about any of the ideas and funding opportunities outlined above and to learn more about how Trilligent can help you achieve your goals.

The author, Sophie Peresson, is a member of the Trilligent Advisory Board and the French representative at the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) TC 276: Biotechnology working group. She is also a member of the OECD Global Forum Tech Focus Group – Synthetic Biology.


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