Accelerating Growth: Forging India's Bioeconomy

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises (ABLE) are pleased to provide this white paper: Accelerating Growth: Forging India’s Bioeconomy.

The Indian biotechnology industry is on the cusp of entering a new era when it can provide significant economic growth and development to the people of India and around the world. India already has many of the necessary ingredients needed in order to grow its bioeconomy, such as a talented and enthusiastic scientific workforce. However, not all the ingredients are in place in order for the country to reach the next level. In 2012, ABLE laid out an ambitious goal of growing the Indian bioeconomy from its present $4.3 billion to more than $100 billion by 2025. This call to action was quickly picked up by government officials and others who saw the potential benefits of a strong and vibrant biotechnology industry in meeting the needs of Indians in regards to medicine, food, fuel, and environment.

In order to reach this goal, the country needs a roadmap and this white paper is designed to provide such a guide. Biotechnology, like other industrial sectors, requires an ecosystem to nurture and sustain it. In the case of biotechnology, this ecosystem requires substantial input and assistance from the Government of India, at both the Central and State levels. Because biotechnology operates in a highly regulated environment, numerous government policies, rules and regulations are at play, influencing every single aspect of the industry, from research and development, through regulatory approvals, taxation and finance, all the way to government procurement. These policy concerns go well beyond the mandate of any one ministry or agency. Rather, multiple ministries need to work together towards a common goal.

In order to be as comprehensive as possible, the co-authors have examined India’s emerging biotechnology industry from a variety of angles and perspectives, focusing attention on the various sub-sectors such as biopharmaceuticals and bio-agriculture, and as well various policy concerns such as taxation, infrastructure, regulation, and technology transfer. While biopharmaceuticals dominate in terms of market value—reflecting perhaps India’s traditional strength in the pharmaceutical space—we should not neglect the tremendous benefits that could be generated in these other areas, particularly energy, agriculture and environmental remediation. These are all areas where India, and indeed the entire world, has significant unmet needs which could one day be provided by Indian scientists and entrepreneurs.

As Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, the Chairman and Managing Director of Biocon, Ltd. and first President of ABLE recently noted, “India’s contribution to affordable healthcare goes much beyond being a pharmacy to the world. …Helped by a significantly lower cost base that supports a large talent pool of scientists and engineers, India’s research engine is now driving a new model of innovation that adds the condition of affordability.”

This raises another set of issues that are skillfully drawn out by the authors. As noted above, the current size of the biotechnology industry is approximately $4 billion. In order to reach the stated goal of $100 billion, there needs to be a dual focus on entrepreneurship and innovation.

At the moment, there are only a handful of biotechnology companies in India. In order to reach its potential, India needs to encourage the development of many more, by tearing down the barriers to new investment and improving the overall climate for business. About $4 to $5 billion in investment is needed on an annual basis for the next four years to realize the industry’s goal for growth. Furthermore, the country needs to encourage more academic researchers to become entrepreneurs, taking their ideas from the laboratories to the factory floor, in the process creating new, high-paying jobs for many others.

Separately, India needs to re-emphasize its commitment to innovation and introduction of innovative biotechnology products. Significant resources are rightly focused on manufacturing biotechnology products, particularly biopharmaceuticals, at lower costs in order to ensure widespread affordability. While admirable, this is an extremely competitive space and will not likely bring in significant new revenues. An equal if not greater emphasis should be placed on developing new products for the global marketplace. By doing so, companies in India will be in a position to attract new investment capital and generate substantial amounts of new revenue. In such a manner, India will reach its goal of creating a $100 billion industry.

We hope that this white paper will provide the new government in New Delhi and the various state capitals with thoughts on where they should focus their energies in the coming months and years. India is entering a new era of governance and regulation. Efficient and effective governance, coupled with a regulatory system anchored in global standards, is needed in order to provide the necessary underpinnings to allow Indian companies to compete on the global stage. In this manner, policymakers can help the Indian bioeconomy grow and thrive, in turn providing the economic, health and other benefits that India and its people richly deserve.

In closing, we agree with the authors that there is an incredible opportunity now for the country to claim its position as a global leader in biotechnology. The country is about to undergo a rapid transformation into a modern, integrated economy, one with opportunities for its citizens at all levels, regardless of income, social status, or geography. Biotechnology is one way that the country can deliver for its people, helping to feed, heal, and provide new, clean sources of energy.

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