The Enea Assobiotec report confirms growth in 2022 and shares a more than rosy forecast for the next five years: Globally, the biotech sector will triple in value. The innovative start-up segment is also doing well.
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With 823 companies, almost double the number in 2008, the biotech sector is growing in Italy
Not as much as the United States or China, where giants have been occupying the market with trillion-dollar slices for years now, but even Italian biotech companies have nonetheless impressed a boost on investment in one of the most innovative industries.
This is according to the eighth report “Biotechnology companies in Italy,” compiled by Enea and Assobiotec based on information gathered directly from companies at the end of 2022 and available 2021 financial statements.
The weight of health and the rise of the bioeconomy
Seventy-four percent, the largest share of the turnover recorded by companies in 2021, is still attributable to the area of human health. However, the share gained by the bioeconomy, that is, the component dedicated to the environment and agriculture industry, also rises, taking a quarter of the pie. In the two-year period marked by the aftermath of the pandemic (2021-22), bioeconomy enterprises had growth rates of more than 30 percent.
Reflexively, the activity of biotech companies is mainly concentrated in human health (49%), but from 2014 to 2021, the expansion of biotech applications in other fields is also noted. As well, R&D investment within the walls of companies is heavily concentrated 85 percent in human health but, especially for agriculture and animal husbandry, there is an increase.
Resumption of innovation
According to provisional estimates reported in the paper, the number of startups engaged in biotech has picked up again. In 2022, the percentage of new innovative companies stands at 29.6 percent while the previous year it was 28.8 percent. This is still quite a jump, considering that in 2014 the percentage of startup growth was 13.4 percent.
The biotech sector as a whole is composed of 66 percent micro-enterprises, consisting of one to nine employees, and only 8 percent large structures, with more than 250 people. Overall, however, employment data see more than 13,700 employees across the Peninsula in 2022, which notes a growth of about 15 percent compared to 2014.
The regions with the largest presence of biotech companies, about 52 percent of the total, are Lombardy, Lazio, Tuscany, and Piedmont. These four weigh more than 90 percent of Italian sales, 80 percent of in-house R&D investment, and 80 percent of the number of employees. In the South, companies reach 20 percent presence in the sector, where Campania (about 8 percent) and Puglia (over 4 percent) stand out.
Good prospects for the biotech sector
“Biotech Italy still has small numbers when compared to other countries with which we are also competing, but an extraordinary potential if we consider that a recent EY study tells us that globally biotech will triple its value between 2020 and 2028,” Assobiotec president Fabrizio Greco comments in the report’s presentation note.
“Finally,” he added, “in our country there are now several elements that can make the sector grow and run: the NRP, which, in addition to making available large economic resources, asks the country to review and reform the rules of operation of the entire reference ecosystem; new public and private capital that now believes more in our realities; but, above all, the launch of a National Plan for Biotechnology, recently announced by Minister Urso. These are all very important building blocks that can help us compete in the international scenario.”
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