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Statistics show NZ's biotech strength

Friday 27 April 2001 Media Statement

Statistics show NZ's biotech strength

The statistical report on New Zealand biotechnology released today is encouraging confirmation of the strength of the sector, says Research, Science and Technology Minister Pete Hodgson.

The report Modern Biotechnology Activity in New Zealand was compiled by Statistics New Zealand and sponsored by the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology. Based on a 1998-1999 survey of economically significant participants in the biotechnology industry, it is the first analysis of its type carried out in New Zealand.

"Even on a conservative definition of biotechnology, the survey estimates biotechnology to be worth $475 million a year," Mr Hodgson said. "Fifty-nine biotech-related patents were registered in 1999 alone.

"Currently much of the research activity in the sector is publicly funded, but clearly biotechnology makes a very valuable contribution to New Zealand's economy and knowledge base. Most of the work goes on within New Zealand institutions to address New Zealand problems and opportunities."

Mr Hodgson said the survey provided valuable baseline data that would enable the future growth of biotechnology to be tracked. It was also a welcome reminder of the breadth of biotechnology, which includes much more than genetic engineering.

"New technologies such as bioinformatics, the computer analysis of biological information, or bioindicators, the use of organisms to monitor environmental conditions, may be unfamiliar but are part of the wide spectrum of biotech advances in which New Zealand researchers are active."

Mr Hodgson said the shortage of capital for biotechnology identified by survey participants was an issue the Government's planned seed capital fund would help address.

"Biotech is mostly a component of R&D and is often the source of innovations with commercial potential. Increasing the supply of venture capital for early-stage commercial development is precisely what the Government's seed capital plans are designed to achieve. "The Government's recent decision to allow an immediate tax deduction for R&D spending will also help ensure continuing growth in biotechnology investment."


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