Commerce Department Issues First Comprehensive Report on Use of Biotechnology in U.S. Industry

The Department of Commerce's Office of Technology Policy/Technology Administration (OTP/TA) and the Office of Strategic Industries and Economic Security, Bureau of Industry and Security (OSIES/BIS) today released a ground-breaking report, A Survey of the Use of Biotechnology in U.S. Industry. This report presents analysis of data collected in the first comprehensive federal survey of U.S. firms' biotechnology-related business activities and is an important step in assembling comprehensive data on industries that develop or adopt biotechnology products or processes.

"This report confirms that biotechnology is one of the most dynamic and innovative sectors of our economy. It also highlights the diversity of biotechnology companies that significant contributions are being made by small, R&D-intensive biotechnology firms as well as large, diversified companies," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology Phil Bond. "This report, one of many Commerce Department initiatives that support the competitiveness of U.S. biotech firms, advances our understanding of this critical technology."

The survey, commenced in August 2002, was mailed to nearly 3,200 companies. It represents the culmination of more than two years of discussion with biotechnology firms, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO, the largest biotechnology organization in the U.S., representing over one thousand companies), academia, state agencies and governments, and numerous federal agencies.

Survey results confirm that biotechnology activity is a strong innovative engine in the U.S. economy:

  • Economic performance: Biotechnology business lines demonstrated higher rates of growth, and capital and R&D intensity (the ratio of capital or R&D expenditures to net sales) than did respondents' overall businesses. For example, in 2001 and 2002 growth for biotechnology net sales averaged just over 10%, while total net sales for these firms rose at an average annual rate of about 6%.
  • R&D spending: In 2001, reported biotechnology-related R&D expenditures amounted to $16.4 billion, or approximately 10% of all R&D conducted by U.S. industry that year. R&D intensity for biotech business lines was 33.4% that year, compared to 4.3% for all business lines within those same companies.
  • Innovation: In the last quarter of 2002, companies reported 32,304 pending patent applications for biotechnology products or processes, compared to 23,380 granted patents in companies' current portfolios.
  • Workforce growth: Biotechnology companies providing data for 2000-2002 averaged 12.3% annual workforce growth, with the largest increases in smaller firms (those with 50-499 employees). During the same period, growth in non-farm payroll employment in the U.S. was essentially flat.
  • Business investment: During 2001, survey respondents invested about twice as much in biotechnology-related lines of business as in their businesses as a whole. For example, capital expenditures represented 12.4% of total net sales for respondents' biotech business lines, compared to 5.2% for all business operations.

The survey results will assist U.S. policymakers in assessing the health of the biotechnology industry and identifying the most significant barriers to industry competitiveness (such as research costs and access to start-up capital).

The report is available for download on the Web site of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, (PDF).