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Hodgson Speech - NZBio Conference Awards Dinner

31 March 2008 Speech
Embargoed until 8pm 31 March 2008
NZBio Conference Awards Dinner

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for the opportunity to speak at this event.

This is the fourth NZBio annual conference, and was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural conference in 2004. Then I was privileged, as I am tonight, to announce the winners of two distinguished biotechnology awards.

I am pleased to see the NZBio conference has doubled in size over four years to grow into the industry’s showcase event; this is a strong reflection of the success we see in the biotechnology industry both here and overseas.

Equally I am pleased to see such a large gathering of not only New Zealand’s best and brightest biotech minds, but also those international delegates that have come to share their knowledge and explore what New Zealand’s biotech industry has to offer.

I understand we have representatives from Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Taiwan and France.

Growth of the industry since NZBio began

Over these past four years I have seen what I consider to be the remarkable growth for a young industry.

The latest NZ Biotechnology Growth Report, published in 2006, shows New Zealand has one of the world’s fastest growing biotechnology sectors.

Between 2004 and 2005 the total number of biotech organisations grew 15 per cent and the workforce grew 20 per cent, while income received increased over those two years increased bys 26 per cent.

Exports of biotechnology goods, services, processes, and knowledge for the 2005 financial year were valued at $142 million - a revenue increase of over 30 per cent compared to 2004.

The number of biotechnology-related patents being granted to New Zealand companies is increasing, along with our biotech-related exports, while other indicators also show tremendous growth in the New Zealand biotechnology sector.

A key element to this success is that biotech is a results-driven industry. Without patents being issued, or funds being secured, no results would be obtained in our labs and in our clinics.

Therefore it’s pleasing to see that our industry is achieving milestones, achieving results, and continuing to expand.

NZBio has been instrumental in helping the industry reach this point. The formation of a single industry body has provided a stable foundation to leverage the sector’s advantages both here and offshore, and has provided a unified voice for the industry.

NZ Bio came a long way under its first CEO Brian Ward and I am sure NZBio’s new CEO, Bronwyn Dilley, will foster the next phase of the organisation’s development.

International presence continues to grow

Biotechnology is a global industry and frequently New Zealand’s biotech companies need the support and expertise of collaborators or commercial partners from around the world. This is where our international presence is crucial to our success, and I am pleased to note that there has been a significant growth in the international profile of the New Zealand biotech sector.

The numerous trade shows facilitated by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise are key partnership vehicles that continue to raise the industry’s profile overseas, and link New Zealand companies to large international players.

As this international momentum builds, each year we see more and more New Zealand companies participating in overseas biotech events.

Last year BIO 2007 attracted more than 22,000 industry heavyweights and decision makers, and created more than 12,000 partnership meetings over four days.

New Zealand’s presence at this annual conference has steadily grown from two booths in 2002 to 12 booths in 2007, which showcased 20 companies.

As a reflection of our increased presence, significantly more business was generated than ever before. Sixteen New Zealand companies recorded 25 finalised contracts, together amounting to more than $7.4 million.

New Zealand also finds itself strongly represented on of the key panels at this year’s Bio in San Diego, debating the role of biotechnology with the growing international sustainability agenda.

Our fresh perspective on themes of sustainability, health, agriculture and materials will be profiled. This again demonstrates our international reputation and shows that our unique perspective in biotechnology and sustainability is sought-after.

At the Medica conference in Dusseldorf, New Zealand companies had contact with more than 100 European organisations, offering tremendous opportunities to forge beneficial relationships and develop business opportunities, as well as boosting our presence in Europe.

And at this year’s trade mission to Japan a significant number of commercial leads were forged with large Japanese companies.

New Zealand’s international profile will only continue to increase with this year’s round of trade missions, and I look forward to watching the industry continue to expand into new markets and develop new partnerships with companies overseas.

Continued commitment to the sector’s success

It’s important though to emphasise that the true driver for success comes from within the industry.

In 2003 the Biotechnology Taskforce, a panel of industry leaders, made recommendations in its report “a Framework for Action”.

Substantial progress has been made across the broad suite of industry and government recommendations made.

The New Zealand Biotechnology Industry Growth Report measured the success of this progress, and highlighted a remarkably healthy industry despite the youth of our biotech sector.

The Government continues to look ahead to support the continued development of the industry, and will consider a range of options - including the resurrection of the Biotechnology Taskforce - as a means of measuring our successes and searching for more opportunities as the global market continues to change.

Funding mechanisms

The Government’s continued support for the biotech sector is underpinned by the extent of funding available to biotechnology companies.

The government currently invests $195 million per annum on biotechnology research.

At 25 per cent of the total government research and development investment, this is proportionally the highest share of government funded biotechnology research in the OECD.

This is a clear signal of the importance this Government places on the country’s biotech industry.

The bulk of the government’s research investments are directed towards achieving economic outcomes – fuelling competitive advantages within existing industries and building completely new industries.

The latest development under the Government’s Stable Funding initiative means this year the proportion of government research funding available through negotiation will again increase.

I believe this provides greater certainty and stability for research organisations; and by providing for a more flexible negotiation process, New Zealand’s best brains can be brought together to collaborate and coordinate national research capability with demand.

ANZBPF

The Government is also placing increasing emphasis on commercialisation and partnership funding – which brings me to another announcement.

The Australian New Zealand Biotechnology Partnership Fund is designed to facilitate and assist collaboration between New Zealand and Australian biotech companies.

The fund contributes up to 25 percent of the project cost, with the remainder coming from the Australian and New Zealand partners.

Tonight I am happy to announce the three latest recipients of the fund.

NZAgriseeds is receiving $1.5 million to develop designer endophytes for pasture grasses, in partnership with Molecular Plant Breeding CRC in Australia. This contributes to a total funding pool of $6 million.

PGG Wrightson is receiving $2 million to develop new pasture grasses adapted to warmer environments in partnership with Molecular Plant Breeding CRC. This contributes to a total project fund in excess of $20 million.

Finally, Australo Limited and the Australian institute of Biotechnology at the University of Queensland are using nanotechnology to develop a novel diagnostic tool platform for the detection and measurement of single biomolecules, which has practical applications in health. The fund awarded just over $280,000.

Grants totalling up to $10 million have previously been awarded to nine companies, covering a wide range of biotech projects including the commercialisation of bone graft technology, cancer therapy, nerve repair and a blood-typing product aimed at eradicating potentially life threatening blood transfusion reactions in Asian patients.

Together New Zealand and Australia constitute the world’s fifth largest biotechnology hub. The continued collaboration with our trans-Tasman partners is crucial to ensure New Zealand’s continued success in the global biotech market.

I would like to add that this year’s fund is now open for its fifth competitive round, with a total funding pool of $4.5 million.

The Government hopes that this fund will continue to act as a catalyst for new partnerships and projects that add momentum to our growing sector, and allow New Zealand to continue to reap the benefits of a strong trans-Tasman biotech relationship.

Fast Forward

Biotechnology provides an enabling platform for improved productivity within our core pasture-based industries, both domestically and internationally.

The fact that the latest ANZBPF announcement supports two agri-tech proposals demonstrates New Zealand’s depth of capability in our agricultural-biotech sphere, and compliments the new thrust of support from the Governments new Fast-Forward initiative.

Fast Forward is a major new investment in a plan for the future of New Zealand’s pastoral and food industries.

This plan will see our government committing up front $700 million to be used in a new research, development and innovation fund, which will have positive spin-offs for the biotech industry in New Zealand.

I expect it will provide yet another avenue of support for the biotech industry, supporting our valuable agri-tech projects.

Regulatory developments

Over the past year we have seen further improvements to the regulatory framework around biotechnology.

The announcement in this year’s budget package of a 15 per cent tax credit for companies undertaking Research & Development has been welcomed by the sector, and I believe will help encourage more investment in technology development by New Zealand firms.

Another big win for the industry has been the Government’s decision to take a volume-based approach when applying the tax credit, which is a more practical approach to the application of tax credits in the sector.

Conclusion

Tonight’s occasion is a chance to celebrate outstanding achievement in the biotech sector. It also offers a chance for us to admire the results that you have all achieved over the past few years to further New Zealand’s biotech industry.

Over the past four years I have observed your progress and your successes. I look forward to seeing New Zealand biotech companies continue to make their mark on the global industry, and I congratulate you on what you have achieved to date.

Thank you.

ENDS

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