The Top Countries for Biotech Firms and Research

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Biotechnology is the implementation of biology and technology to create products and applications that are beneficial to the environment and people. According to research conducted by MarketLine in 2019:

"The biotechnology industry consists of the development, manufacturing, and industrying of products based on advanced biotechnology research." 

The United States has a dominant position in the market, with 48.2% of the firms in the industry operating out of the U.S. Firms in the Asia Pacific area hold 24% of the market, followed by Europe (18.1%), then the Middle East (1.8%)—the rest of the world closes up the remaining 7.9% of the market.

Ranking by Total Biotechnology R&D Expenditures

The number of firms is one way to rank biotech by country, while expenditures in research and development are another. The United States outspends its nearest competitor, Japan, commanding almost 60% of the R&D market. The other big spenders are Switzerland, France, Germany, and Denmark—each hovering around 10% of the market.

The Changing Landscape for Research and Development

However, research and development budgets have felt the squeeze in the European Union, Japan, and the United States since 2008, with only a 1.6% annual growth rate between 2014 and 2018. Meanwhile, China continued to boost its spending on R&D in general, growing 9.1% from 2014 to 2018.

Public finances are still tight in many countries, making it tough to boost R&D budgets with public funding as was done at the height of the economic crisis in 2008-2010.

According to a 2010 OECD report on science and technology, it appears the industry picture has looked better in recent years for several non-OECD countries, such as Singapore, Brazil, China, India, and South Africa.

Different Entities Rank Countries Differently

Although Japan is ranked second in certain criteria by OECD, it doesn't rank in the top 5 at all according to other sources and criteria. In 2016, Scientific American ranked the top 5 biotech countries in a "Worldview Scorecard" as USA, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and Denmark.

These rankings were compiled using the following criteria:

  • intellectual property (IP) and the ability to protect it
  • intensity, recognized to be the effort in innovation; enterprise support—access to venture capital and business support
  • the education of and availability of an expert workforce
  • foundations such as infrastructure and the country's R&D drivers
  • the country's government, stability, and quality of regulation

Looking to the Future

Countries doing well in the biotech industry are those with strong incentives for technology development and a range of options for obtaining research funding.

Beyond Borders: Global Biotechnology Report is an analysis of the industry written annually by Ernst & Young. In 2017 (the most recent report freely available) the report indicated that 23 European biotech companies went public, raising $703 million in capital, while a Swiss company raised $76 million on its own in an initial public offering (IPO). Other countries in Europe that had companies raising capital via IPOs in 2017 were Switzerland, Poland, Netherlands, France, and Germany.

IPOs across China, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea raised a combined total of $2.5 billion in capital, suggesting a continuing large interest in the growing field.

While the amount of funds raised by IPO is down from previous years for both of these geographic areas, these stats suggest that across the globe, businesses, investors, and countries recognize that biotechnology is an investment that is continuing to gain popularity and momentum.

View Article Sources
  1. MarketLine Industry Profiles. "Global Biotechnology December 2019," Click "Quick Buy." Accessed Apr. 27, 2020.

  2. The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. "Worldwide Pharmaceutical Company R&D Expenditure by Country." Accessed Apr. 27, 2020.

  3. Marketline Industry Profile: Biotechnology in Asia-Pacific. "Biotechnology Industry Profile: Asia-Pacific." Purchase "Quick Buy". Accessed Apr. 27, 2020.

  4. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. "OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook 2010 Highlights." Accessed Apr. 27, 2020.

  5. Scientific American Worldview. "The 8th Annual Worldview Scorecard: Biotechs Deepest Dive to Date," Page 30. Accessed Apr. 97, 2020.

  6. Ernst & Yound. "Beyond borders. Biotechnology Report 2017: Staying the Course." Accessed Apr. 29, 2020.