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What drives the development of the Estonian life science sector? – the interview with Andrus Tasa, the CEO of Tartu Biotechnology Park - part II

Publish date: 2013-03-29

The second part of the interview with Andrus Tasa, the CEO of Tartu Biotechnology Park.

Tags: biotechnology , interview , estonia

What are your plans for the future? Are you going to participate in international projects? Will you expand the current facilities?

TBP intends to continue BioMed Incubation and participate in international projects. TBP has been a partner to several European projects. TBP collaborates closely with biotechnology parks and IRCs in Europe as well as in USA and Canada to develop international projects and cooperation links for benefit of biotechnology and life science SMEs. As a member and Estonian contact point of ScanBalt, TBP has taken a moral obligation to contribute to economical development and competitiveness of Nordic- Baltic meta-region. At the same time TBP collaborates actively with Southern European countries like Ukraine, Georgia, Romania and Bulgaria aiming to create synergy of existing knowledge and competencies. Some ongoing projects:

COWIN — COWIN’s mission is to facilitate take-up of the advanced technologies worthy of investments, in order to capture innovation, win new markets and make a profit.

BRHR HealthPort — Business acceleration support and training bridging innovative SMEs and health care organisations to strengthen BSR health economy (in short BSHR HealthPort) focus on the interactions between Health Service providers and SMEs with the aim of enhancing innovation, reduce health care costs and promote SME access to the BSR Health Care market.

Food MicroSystems — The overall objective of FoodMicroSystems is to initiate the implementation of microsystems & smart miniaturized systems in the food sector by improving cooperation between suppliers and users of microsystems for food/beverage quality and safety.

SUBMARINER — Submariner builds the road for furthering those environmentally friendly as well as economically appealing innovative uses within the BSR, thus contributing toward its aim to become a model region for sustainable sea management.

Also, TBP has agreed to participate in two projects with Sunrise Valley (in Leonardo da Vinci Programme). At immediate future, there aren`t any major expanding plans of current facilities.

 

What is the state of life science market in Estonia? What are its major advantages? How do you predict the development of Estonian bioentrepreneurship in the future?

In Estonia there are almost 60 companies working in the field of biotechnology. Most of them are located in Tallinn or Tartu. University of Tartu, University of Technology, Estonian University and Estonian University of Life Sciences are the most significant educational institutions in the field of biotechnology in the country.  Estonia has undergone remarkable development from a closed country occupied by the Soviet Union to an active partner in the global economy, prone to adopting new technologies. The liberal economic environment, favourable towards entrepreneurship, has fuelled the growth of the Estonian economy. Biotechnology-related legislation in Estonia is well-established and harmonised with EU legislation. The importance of progress in this sector is also recognised by the government as one of the strategic key technologies. However, today Estonian R&D costs constitute little more than 1% of GDP. The specific goal is to increase gross investment in R&D to 3% of the GDP by 2014. Millions of euros have been invested in up-to-date laboratory infrastructure enriching the equipment pool of the Estonian Biocentre and University of Tartu, e.g. core laboratory of sequencing and genotyping (incl. Illumina Beadstation 500GX genotyping platform), core laboratory of biomedicine and molecular and cell biology, transgenic technology core laboratory, core laboratory of applied virology and the core laboratory of proteomics.

The main competences of Estonian biotechnology lie in medical biotechnology - immunology, genomics and cancer research. Industrial biotechnology is also rather advanced developed both on the research and industry side, including biochemistry, organic synthesis, environmental and food biotechnology.

There are many advantages of the biotechnology sector in Estonia: the state supports R&D and innovation; the economic environment in Estonia is generally liberal and favourable towards entrepreneurship; biotechnology-related legislation is well-established and harmonized with EU legislation. The sector offers a good scientific foundation and a large network of contacts, mainly with the Scandinavian region. The benefits also come from good quality labour force - over the past few years there has been a trend of scientists repatriating; and approximately 500 graduates with relevant education enter the labour market every year.

Right now, the development of Estonian bioentrepreneurship seems to be developing, growing and with good infrastructure, education and support (incubation and acceleration programmes, financial supporting funds and mentor programmes etc.), it has very good possibilities for international growth.

 

Have you heard about Bioforum? What do you think about this event? How do you feel the idea of consolidating the Central and Eastern European bioinnovative sector? (www.cebioforum.com)

TBP is informed about Bioforum and we have visited Bioforum homepage several times. Also, TBP has participated along with Estonian delegation in Bioforum back in 2009. All participated enterprises got some useful contacts, but as enterprises have to make choices due to limited budget, then they prefer visit other trade fairs and events. Participated enterprises got too few useful contacts. Last time, most of participated enterprises wanted to sell and find new clients, but our enterprises were interested in finding new partners for R&D and for other cooperation forms and they were not interested in buying or being potential new clients. So the focus was not right for them. The idea of Bioforum is good and necessary for bioinnovative sector. 

 

by Jakub Chrustowicz

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