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Biotechnology Can Meet The Growing Energy Needs Of Rural India

The Indian economy also has a distinct advantage with respect to its demography that can ensure sustained growth for the sector.

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Indian biotechnology industry has flourished over the years. As of 2016, India had over a thousand biotechnology start-ups. Pixabay

Over the last two-to-three decades, the major success story of the Indian economy has been the stellar growth of its IT industry. But as the dividends from the sector reach the eventual inflection point, India needs to build similar competencies in other industries to ensure sustained growth and prosperity.

It is not acknowledged as often but the biotechnology industry seemed poised to take over the mantle. In the span of a decade beginning in 2007, the industry has grown exponentially in size from about $2 billion to over $11 billion in terms of revenue. By 2025, it is targeted to touch $100 billion.

The biotechnology industry, however, has been impacting Indian lives long before it grew so much in size. Back in the mid-1960s, advancements in biotechnology drove the Green Revolution, which enhanced farm yields and made the country self-sufficient in food production.

A similar contribution from the sector was witnessed in the White Revolution when India became a milk-surplus nation and improved the nutrition level of its citizens.

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However, a few challenges need to be addressed if India is to fuel the growth of its biotechnology industry and achieve its target of making it a $100 billion industry by 2025. Pixabay

More recently, the meteoric growth of the Indian pharmaceutical industry is a result of process innovation that has given the country a cost advantage in the manufacture of drugs.

Further, the growing energy needs of India’s rural areas have been increasingly met by biomass fuel.

These outcomes have been the result of years of concerted efforts by the Indian government to enable the growth of the industry. As early as 1986, Rajiv Gandhi, recognising the potential of biotechnology in the country’s development, set up the Department of Biotechnology, making India one of the first countries in the world to have a government department solely dedicated to biotechnology.

Over the years, the Department of Biotechnology has set up 17 Centres of Excellence at higher education institutions across the country and has supported the establishment of eight biotechnology parks across different cities. The biggest contribution of the department has been in setting up of the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) in 2012, which has successfully supported 316 start-ups in its six years of existence.

Due to these efforts, the Indian biotechnology industry has flourished over the years. As of 2016, India had over a thousand biotechnology start-ups. To put matters in perspective, Australia has a total of 470 biotechnology companies. More than half of these start-ups are involved in healthcare – drugs, medical devices and diagnostics – while about 14 per cent are in agricultural biotechnology and about 18 per cent in biotechnology services.

The Indian economy also has a distinct advantage with respect to its demography that can ensure sustained growth for the sector. More than half the Indian population is below the age of 25. On a global scale, the median age in India (26.5 years) is much below that of China (35.9 years) and the US (37.1 years). An effective utilisation of this demographic advantage will provide India a competitive edge over all other emerging economies in the advancement of biotechnological research and development.

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he industry argues that India’s stricter standards for patents discourages innovation and dampens foreign investment. Pixabay

However, a few challenges need to be addressed if India is to fuel the growth of its biotechnology industry and achieve its target of making it a $100 billion industry by 2025. First, India’s research and development expenditure is quite low at 0.67 per cent of GDP, not only compared to mature biotechnology economies such as Japan and the US (which stands at around 3 per cent) but also in comparison to emerging economies like China (which is at around 2 percent).

Second, and more specific to the biotech pharmaceutical sector, there are a few India-specific challenges with the country’s IP regime. There are two main areas of contention for the industry in India’s approach to intellectual property. The first issue lies in Section 3(d) of the Patents (Amendment) Act, 2005, which sets a higher standard for patentability than mandated by TRIPS. The industry argues that India’s stricter standards for patents discourages innovation and dampens foreign investment. The second issue is that of compulsory licensing, which gives the government power to suspend a patent in times of health emergencies. Although India has used this option only once, the industry feels that such regulations keep investors clear of Indian markets.

A third challenge lies in the risk involved in the Valley of Death, that is, the risk of failure in the transition of innovative products and services from discovery to marketisation. Most of the early research funding, often provided by universities or the government, runs out before the marketisation phase, the funding for which is mostly provided by venture capitalists. It becomes difficult to attract further capital between these two stages because a developing technology may seem promising, but it is often too early to validate its commercial potential. This gap has a huge impact in commercialisation of innovative ideas.

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Thus, the Indian government needs to act on these challenges facing the biotechnology sector. An increase in investment towards research and development and building human capital is the most crucial point of action. These initiatives have shifted growth trajectories of countries like China away from India. As for the challenging IP regime, the government needs to come together with the biopharma industry and chalk out a middle ground that recognises the value of innovation and does not hurt its investment attractiveness. Finally, for the Valley of Death concerns, the government can build a mechanism where funding can be provided for select innovative ideas based on their national importance. Only such action-oriented steps can make biotechnology the next success story of the Indian economy. (IANS)

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India PC Market Shrinks 8% in Q1, HP Sells Most

Dell Inc retained the second position with a 25.9 per cent market share with a YoY growth of 2.2 per cent

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HP unveils 65-inch gaming display with soundbar at CES 2019. Flickr

With a market share of 28.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2019, HP Inc maintained its leadership position in the Indian personal computing (PC) market, which shrunk for the third straight quarter, the International Data Corporation (IDC) said on Thursday.

The market witnessed a year-on-year (YoY) drop of 8.3 per cent with shipments reaching 2.15 million units in the first quarter of 2019, said the report.

Despite maintaining its leadership position in the market, HP Inc saw a 9.7 per cent YoY decline, mainly due to consumer segment that shrunk 21.3 per cent over the first quarter of last year.

Dell Inc retained the second position with a 25.9 per cent market share with a YoY growth of 2.2 per cent and a quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) growth of 26.7 per cent.

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HP. (IANS)

Lenovo remained at third position with a market share of 25.2 per cent in Q1 of 2019 in India traditional PC market, observing a 6.2 per cent YoY growth and a 29.2 per cent sequential growth.

The India PC market remained weak outside big commercial deals due to weak consumer demand, high inventory from previous quarters and supply issues for Intel chips, IDC said.

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The notebook category contributing 61.4 per cent of the India PC market shipments witnessed a 9.8 per cent YoY decline. Within notebooks, ultra-slim category, with a 25.3 per cent share of the market, grew 86.5 per cent.

“Spending towards ultra-slim notebooks is increasing due to factors like improved mobility due to thinness of the product and enhanced aesthetics,” Bharath Shenoy, Market Analyst, PCs, IDC India, said in a statement. (IANS)