“The world is shifting to an innovation economy and nobody does innovation better than America. ”
—President Obama, December 6, 2011
On September 16, 2011, President Obama announced that his Administration would release a National Bioeconomy Blueprint as part of his commitment to supporting scientific discovery and technological breakthroughs to ensure sustainable economic growth, improve the health of the population, and move toward a clean energy future. The 2012 National Bioeconomy Blueprint has two purposes: to lay out strategic objectives that will help realize the full potential of the U. S. bioeconomy and to highlight early achievements toward those objectives.
Technological innovation is a significant driver of economic growth, and the U.S. bioeconomy represents a growing sector of this technology-fueled economy. According to the USDA, U. S. revenues in 2010 from genetically modified crops were approximately $76 billion. Beyond agriculture, based on the best available estimate, 2010 U. S. revenues from industrial biotechnology—fuels, materials, chemicals, and industrial enzymes derived from genetically modified systems—were approximately $100 billion.
The growth of today’s U. S. bioeconomy is due in large part to the development of three foundational technologies: genetic engineering, DNA sequencing, and automated high-throughput manipulations of biomolecules.
The National Bioeconomy Blueprint describes five strategic objectives for a bioeconomy with the potential to generate economic growth and address societal needs.
1. Support R&D investments that will provide the foundation for the future U. S. bioeconomy.
TCoordinated strategic programs and targeted investments will accelerate progress in biological research and technology areas, and this in turn will drive discovery for an American bioeconomy.
Expand and Develop Essential Bioeconomy Technologies – Multiagency collaborations for emerging foundational technologies such as synthetic biology, biology-related information technologies, proteomics, and others are being fostered in order to grow the bioeconomy.
Integrate Approaches across Fields – The Administration will prioritize additional multidisciplinary efforts to enable biological research at the boundaries of fields, such as physics, chemistry, engineering, computer sciences, and mathematics, that support the bioeconomy.
Implement Improved Funding Mechanisms – Creating or modifying funding mechanisms to support creative, high-risk/high-reward research can enable researchers to pursue daring—and potentially groundbreaking—research that may be constrained by typical funding mechanisms or approaches.
2. Facilitate the transition of bioinventions from research lab to market, including an increased focus on translational and regulatory sciences.
Accelerate Progress to Market – To capitalize on the promise of the newly reauthorized Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, agencies should evaluate and update SBIR programs. Some relevant objectives include reducing application response times, hiring/training program staff to enhance relevant in-house experience, and increasing the use of industry experts as peer reviewers to evaluate industry proposals.
Enhance Entrepreneurship at Universities – Integrating entrepreneurship and industry involvement into the university research experience will facilitate the path from research to commercialization and help innovative ideas reach the marketplace. Innovative programs that enhance entrepreneurial activities at universities are needed to help academic discoveries become commercial realities.
Utilize Federal Procurement Authority – To drive the creation and growth of new bioeconomy markets, Federal agencies should prioritize procurement of biobased and sustainable products where appropriate and cost-effective.
3. Develop and reform regulations to reduce barriers, increase the speed and predictability of regulatory processes, and reduce costs while protecting human and environmental health.
Moving forward: Improved regulatory processes will help rapidly and safely achieve the promise of the future bioeconomy.
Improve Regulatory Processes and Regulations – To reduce costs and impediments to investments but without compromising safety and efficiency, attention should be given to application review times, sequential reviews by multiple agencies should be coordinated to allow parallel reviews, and specific guidance should be issued in response to stakeholder needs.
Collaborate with Stakeholders – Federal agencies should focus on building new, and augmenting existing, stakeholder collaborations to inform efforts, streamline processes, and reduce costs and response times, while preserving safety and ensuring substantive benefit to public
4. Update training programs and align academic institution incentives with student training for national workforce needs.
Employer-Educator Partnerships – Foster increased industry participation in the development of programs and in training students at all levels for the future bioeconomy workforce.
Reengineer Training Programs – Incentives for academic institutions to enhance entrepreneurship and restructure training programs would better prepare the future bioeconomy workforce, whether individuals are bound for careers in industry or academia.
5. Identify and support opportunities for the development of public-private partnerships and precompetitive collaborations—where competitors pool resources, knowledge, and expertise to learn from successes and failures.
Catalyze Public-Private Partnerships – Federal agencies are encouraged to broadly pursue opportunities for effective public-private partnerships in health, energy, agriculture, and manufacturing to leverage Federal investments and industry investments and expertise.
See the complete National Bioeconomy Blueprint 2012 here.