How is biotech

Biotech industry

Industry sketch

I. Modern biotechnology

The vast majority of biotech companies are active in medical biotechnology. Without biotechnology, modern drug research and development (for example drugs against cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or diabetes) is no longer conceivable today. According to the Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (vfa), sales of genetically modified drugs (biopharmaceuticals) in Germany grew by 13 percent in 2019 compared to 2018, to 12.7 billion euros.

The vast majority of German biotech companies are working on new drugs (drugs, diagnostics, vaccines) or offering services in these areas. The share of biopharmaceuticals in the entire German pharmaceutical market rose from 27.1 to 28.7 percent in 2019.

In the field of industrial biotechnology, there is a focus on more environmentally friendly processes and products, for example through the development of biochemicals, replacement of conventional plastics or the use of enzymes and microorganisms in production or to break down pollutants. With the help of industrial biotechnology, for example, starch, cellulose and oils obtained from biomass can be used as starting substances for the production of energy, fuels and bio-based products.

In almost all other industries - for example in the food, cosmetics, paper, construction, automotive or textile industries - there are both ecological and economic advantages.

Biotechnology as a cross-sectional technology therefore plays a central role on the way to a sustainable (circular) economy. Such a knowledge-based bioeconomy, which practically all industrial and economic sectors and their associated services, biological resources (plants, animals, microorganisms), but also residual and waste materials produce, process or process or use in any form, pursues the approach, to use renewable resources efficiently and sustainably. Here, all areas of application of biotechnology must be linked with one another.

Plant biotechnology can make an important contribution to nutrition, energy generation or the manufacture of bio-based products. There is a need for action with regard to broad social acceptance of plant biotechnology.

II. Current development / perspective

With 668 companies, Germany has held a top position in Europe for years in terms of the number of companies. In terms of company size, turnover, products and market capitalization, however, there is still some catching up to do compared to Great Britain and the world market leader USA.

The key figures for the German biotechnology industry have changed insofar as the figures for the biotechnology industry have been collected since the survey for 2015 by Ernst & Young together with the biotechnology association BIO Germany.

Overcoming bottlenecks in financing continues to be one of the greatest challenges for the industry. Due to the high expenditures for research and development, there is a high capital requirement compared to other sectors.

Key data

Development of German companies with main business purpose biotechnology *)

201520162017201820192020
General key figures
Number of companies591641647649677687
- of which listed182021212323
Employees17.89923.11425.92728.99134.01937.415
Financial data (€ million)
sales3.4013.7044.0144.4424.7826.486
R&D effort1.0461.2171.1851.4801.7982.459

Source: Ernst & Young Biotechnology Report Germany 2021 BIO Germany

*) Main business purpose Commercialization of modern biotechnology (including research, development and marketing of products, technologies and services based on modern biotechnology). Companies that are not exclusively concerned with modern biotechnology are not included here.

What is the BMWi doing for the biotech industry?

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is committed to improving the framework conditions nationally, EU-wide and internationally, promoting an innovation-friendly climate in Germany and strengthening social acceptance for new technologies.

The Central Innovation Program for SMEs (ZIM) supports cooperation and network projects as well as individual projects. In addition, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy helps to close funding gaps for innovative companies. The co-investment fund Coparion and the High-Tech Gründerfonds III, the ERP / EIF umbrella fund, are of particular interest to young companies in the biotechnology sector. The Invest grant for venture capital improves the capitalization of young innovative companies by subsidizing investments by private investors in startups.

In addition, the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) founded a new subsidiary, KfW Capital, in 2018. The aim of the joint initiative of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the Federal Ministry of Finance and KfW is to strengthen the VC and VD fund landscape in Germany and Europe in order to provide access to capital for young, innovative, fast-growing technology companies in Germany to improve the startup and growth phase.

In addition, the ERP special fund managed by the Federal Ministry of Economics, in cooperation with the European Investment Fund (EIF), participates in the financing of young, innovative companies and start-ups, including from the biotech industry, through other programs.

In order to improve the crediting of loss carry-forwards, a regulation was adopted on the initiative of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, which came into force retrospectively on January 1, 2016. In addition, the 2018 Annual Tax Act introduced further relief.

With the health industry export initiative, the Federal Ministry of Economics is helping to make medical biotechnology products successful around the world.

A study is currently investigating how the progress of the bioeconomy can be made measurable and visible. An ex-ante evaluation is currently laying the foundations for the creation of an “industrial bioeconomy” funding program. The findings that have so far emerged from the working groups of the “Industrial Bioeconomy” dialogue platform initiated in 2018 are also taken into account.