Earlier this month of July was presented the annually ASEBIO report, published by the Spanish Biotechnology Companies Association, taken as a reference of the health of the sector in Spain. As conclusions, the press and specialized opinion highlighted the positive increase of the impact of biotechnology in Spanish GDP (7.15%), with an important rise since 2008 (2.98%), along with a growth of 23.7% of employment up to the 202,250 workers and a 26.5% increase in the turnover.

CEO: Without a doubt the big picture is encouraging and especially taking into account the economical context during this growth. This data should serve to ratify that the biotechnology sector is, and must be more and more, one of the driver vectors of growth in any developed country. However a deeper analysis reveals that we are still quite far from the impact that has on other reference countries. To get closer to expected by our country figures, no doubt that we need more “Grifols” and facilitate in everything, and not otherwise, to companies as Grifols can continue growing and acting as a big leader. Spanish biotechnology needs size, muscles, and big leaders that can complete the whole value chain. Each advanced country in our environment has at least one or two reference leading global companies especially in red biotechnology. Spain should launch a strategic plan to have within a reasonable timeframe at least one company among the top 15 in world sales. We have enough raw material, but we should take it as a matter of State and put in place mechanisms and appropriate measures to implement it.

 

However, it has also pointed out the decline in R&D investment, the first in ten years.

CEO: Well, it´s not a surprising fact and we saw it coming. Not for less surprising it is less relevant. Right or wrong, time will tell. We are again applying the contrary recipe that reference countries in biotechnology do. In the United States and global in Europe the increased investment in R&D in 2011 was a 9%, 121% in Sweden, 32% in Switzerland, 30% in Norway,  and 14% in Germany, to name a few. Note that in Europe the increase in global leaders was 26% whereas that of other companies decreased by 6%, which, going back to the previous answer, could partly explain the global decline in Spain. It´s also a hot issue the need for a private R&D investment increase, but that would be possible with larger enterprises and facilitating access to large fortunes. To establish a more friendly and long-lasting fiscal framework is essential to booster the investment of these sources of capital. Specific measures of this kind clearly would foster private investment in R&D. I also think we should optimize the efficiency of the public R&D investment.

 

In this ASEBIO 2012 report Andalusia registers for the first time as a second region in creation of biotech companies in Spain

CEO: From my point of view this data has more analytical or statistical value than anything else. The global sector in Spain has relative little weight on the international scene to introduce ourselves by regions. This has been one aspect that has always caused both surprise and criticism among the international agents we meet. Putting political fireworks aside, I truly believe that a global Spanish projection would help us all. Analyzing the data in question, it confirms that the entrepreneurial spirit in Andalusia is alive but it will be pointless if these initiatives are not consolidated and manage to reverse the macroeconomic data in the area and, above all, reduce youth unemployment. Andalusia, like Spain, has enormous potential to consolidate the sector. But you have to get down to work and do it.

 

Biotechnology companies argue in the report the important decline in government support

CEO: As I mentioned before, to be more consistent with the most competitive actors, the trend should be the opposite. It is necessary to invest more but also more efficiently. Criteria and indicators to finance R&D must lay in a greater degree on efficiency and social impact. It is also essential to go on investing in basic R&D but its reaching to the market can not be eternal, and that can be measured. The Spanish R&D system is already matured enough to be able to sort what either basic or applied R&D permanently remains in the middle of nowhere. That’s where is needed to act and seek excellence in efficiency. We have probably one of the best facilities-equipped R&D systems in Europe but it is clearly under-used. The Administration has many possible mechanisms of R&D support other than direct investment. Many countries and regions have demonstrated that with a friendly legal framework and an appropriate fiscal plan you can get great advance. It is not necessary to reinvent the wheel just apply what works.

 

What good news would you expect for the next year ASEBIO report?

CEO: The best news we could receive is that all stakeholders in the field got a global agreement to design and implement an ambitious and concise strategic plan to place national biotechnology in the position that deserves. A specific biotechnology strategic plan that includes a stable legal framework that encourage investment. The ROI is assured.