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Tracks & Attendees Put the “International” in the BIO International Convention

February 14, 2013
As the BIO International Convention celebrates its 20th year, there is no time like the present to reflect on the evolution of the world’s largest biotechnology industry gathering, and what it illustrates in terms of the patterns of global industry achievements.

Overall attendance growth over the years – from a 4,000-strong audience in 1998 to an audience topping 16,000 in 2012 – provides a clear indication of how far this industry has come towards developing and introducing new and cutting-edge technologies designed to heal, fuel & feed the world. Some of the most interesting attendance patterns have occurred among the international participants, and, by taking a closer look, we will see that such patterns reflect the geographical expansion of R&D beyond the West.

In the early ‘90s, the Convention attracted few attendees from outside the U.S., with participants coming primarily from Canada, the U.K. and Germany. Increasing regional competition throughout the decade saw significant growth patterns from Japan, Australia, France, and Western Europe as national programs targeting both education and policy support began to show their impact through new spin-outs, improved regional infrastructure and cluster development, and an increase in new product approvals.

Further maturation of the U.S. and other Western countries’ biotech sectors demonstrated the positive value of biotech R&D for economic growth and societal well-being. As global trade intensified, governments in many emerging markets identified biotechnology as a strategic growth engine. From Malaysia to Mexico, and well beyond, public-sector investments and initiatives reached new heights. Companies in the West seized new opportunities to increase pipelines and efficiency and/or control costs of R&D and manufacturing, either by initiating new collaborations with non-Western firms or through direct investment.

The rise of biotech outside the West began to manifest itself at the BIO International Convention. Now, nearly every country that has identified biotechnology as a strategic priority for growth and development has an official presence at the Convention. From 2001 until now, the highest increases in participation were from Brazil, China, India, and Malaysia.  Simultaneously, participation in most Western countries reached a plateau and in some cases declined, with two important exceptions being Spain and Belgium.

More recently, participation from two countries in particular has risen exponentially: Russia and Turkey. Both governments are developing (Turkey) or have developed (Russia) their strategic visions to increase their competitiveness in biotech and biopharmaceutical innovation. And, both countries are leveraging the Convention to highlight their competitiveness, most significantly through sizable pavilions in the Exhibition Hall as well as through a visible presence within the Convention program.

Looking ahead, the global innovation landscape in biotechnology will continue to impact the attendance patterns – and programming – at the BIO International Convention. During this year’s Convention in Chicago, the international programming will take an in-depth look at the national and regional strategic policy mechanisms in key emerging markets that have most effectively delivered on their goals and objectives. From the BRICs special program and International Spotlights & Policy Track to the International Market Briefings, the international program will appeal to all attendees as the industry is truly a global marketplace.

To learn more about the international programming, please visit here.