Flash Findings: A Global View of Biotechnology

Published: Friday, Aug 13, 2010

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ( “is a group of 30 member countries sharing a commitment to democratic government and the market economy. Best known for its publications and its statistics, its work covers economic and social issues from macroeconomics, to trade, education, development and science and innovation.”

According to the OECD Biotechnology Statistics 2006 (

• The United States has the largest number of biotechnology firms (2,196), followed by Japan (804) and France (755). The 15 reporting countries from the European Union (EU) have a total of 3,154 biotechnology firms.

• Business sector expenditures on biotechnology R&D are highest in the United States (PPP$ 14,232 million), accounting for 66.3% of all business sector biotechnology R&D in the 17 countries reporting.

• The United States leads with an estimated 75,320 biotechnology R&D employees in the business sector in 2003, followed by the United Kingdom with 9,644 R&D employees. Both results are based on all R&D employees in core biotechnology firms.

• The United States accounts for 59.7% of the estimated total of 288,584 biotechnology employees among the 21 reporting countries and for 56.9% of the estimated 129,172 biotechnology R&D employees among 17 reporting countries.

• Sales in the United States in 2001 for biotechnology goods and services only was PPP$ 50,472 million, or 41% more than the total sales in all other reporting countries combined of PPP$ 35,873 million.

• The majority of biotech firms, 51%, are active in health, followed by 19% of firms active in agro-food, 16% active in the “other” category, and 15% active in industry-environmental applications.

• Germany and the United States have the highest activity rate for health applications (65%), followed by China (63%) and Denmark (58%). Only 19% of activity is in health in New Zealand.

• Health applications dominate biotechnology R&D. Excluding Sweden and Belgium where the shares are based on R&D employees, 87% of all estimated biotechnology R&D expenditures in the remaining 12 countries reporting are for health applications, 4% for agrofood applications, 2% for industrial-environmental applications, and 7% for “other” applications.

• In all countries, the majority of biotechnology R&D investments are focused on health applications. Almost 90% or more of biotechnology R&D is for health applications in the United States (89%), Iceland (92%), and Ireland (97%). The lowest share is in Sweden, but this is partly because health-related biotechnology employment in the service sector is assigned to the “other” category.

• The total sales in the 13 countries reporting is PPP$ 82,852 million. As with R&D investments, health applications account for the large majority of the total at 80%, followed by the “other” (mostly services) at 9%, agro-food applications at 6%, and industry-environmental applications at 5%.

• The share of sales from health applications of biotechnology is above 80% in four countries: France (83%), the United States (87%), Switzerland (88%), and Ireland (92%). Conversely, the health applications share is below 60% in Japan (57%), Israel (52%), and Canada (53%).

• In 2002, more than 5,800 biotechnology patents were filed at the European Patent Office (EPO), most of which originated from the United States (39.9%) and the European Union (34.5%).

According to the National Science Foundation’s 2006 Science and Engineering Indicators and the CATI-MERIT database,

which collects information on strategic alliances by domestic and multinational firms for technology transfer or joint research

in biotechnology from announcements or articles in newspapers and professional journals:

• The share of all CATI-MERIT alliances that involve biotechnology has been increasing over time, from 11% of the total in 1990 to 53% in 2003.

• Between 2001 and 2003 inclusive, 1,055 reported biotechnology alliances were included in the CATI-MERIT database. An alliance can include firms from two or more of the four countries or regions, or it can only include domestic firms. A partner from the United States was involved in 72.7% of the 1,055 biotechnology alliances over these three years, a European partner in 49.7%, a Japanese partner in 8.2%, and a partner from a non-triad country in 14.8%.

• The total number of biotechnology alliances increased from 45 in 1990 to 368 in 2003. The growth in alliances was greatest for those involving partners from the United States, where the number of alliances increased 9.8 times from 28 in 1990 to 274 in 2003.

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