suffers from lack of skilled people, affecting innovation
India has over 400
biotechnology colleges from where annually over 15,000 students
graduate, however, not all of them are employable. The number of
biotech graduates in India has increased to 15,000 in 2009 from a
paltry 1,000 in 2003 and this shows the interest students have in
The demand for manpower in biotech ranges from scientists, researchers
and technicians to the sales personnel, legal teams and teachers. There
are over 100 public colleges and over 300 privately-owned biotech
colleges in India. Over the years, BioSpectrum has interacted with
various CEOs and HR executives in biotech companies to look into this
aspect, and now it is known that the average employability of
graduating students in the country for the Indian biotech sector was
just 22-25 percent.
Lack of practical knowledge and hands-on experience imparted to
students at educational institutions can be one of the reasons for this
dearth. Quality thus becomes a crucial factor for such a specialized
industry. Being a knowledge intensive sector it requires highly-skilled
manpower. It is for this reason that biotech students think it is
appropriate to study abroad, acquire higher degrees and specialization
to get better exposure in terms of salary and growth.
limiting researchers' access to vital technologies
Indian scientists have
difficulties accessing information and participating in knowledge
networks. They also have very limited access to efficient utilization
of high-end platform technologies.
If Indian scientists have to grow up to world-class levels, India needs
to create physical infrastructure in critical platform technologies.
These should be used to support disciplinary and interdisciplinary
education, training and research in biotechnology.
Platform technologies facilitate a broad range of application-based
activities. Access to appropriate platform technologies can reduce
costs and avoid unnecessary duplication of facilities, increase
international R&D competitiveness and provide an environment of
effective networking and collaboration.
the right innovation climate is critical to the innovation process
India lacks an innovation
ecosystem that can drive the country's development over the
Innovative solutions that are developed in several research labs with
potential are not nurtured and rapidly applied.
Research institutions must promote an innovation culture. Their
research goals should be aligned with the expectations of the
industrial and social sectors. Scientific institutes should also
improve their outward orientation by strengthening links with industry
and increasing international research partnerships.
Different types of policy measures are also needed to create a climate
favorable to innovation. Along with policy measures there is a need for
local structures such as incubators and innovation centers which help
entrepreneurs developing their projects. The development of a venture
capital industry is equally important. It is needed in the later part
of the innovation process when projects have to be scaled up at the
production and commercialization phase.
of seed funding
and PEs are risk averse
Unlike other industries where
gestation period and time to market is less, biotech industry is a time
and capital-intensive industry. A product development can take anywhere
between 5-10 years and has a massive cost involved and this puts off
venture capitalists and private equity firms who cannot risk loosing
money when a product fails. While this is the case in India, abroad,
especially in western countries, VCs invest seed money into a startup.
India has numerous firms ready to pool in late stage funds of a product
cycle but there is a dire need for startup funding in the country.
Industry experts attribute this to the lack of awareness amongst
investors about the complexity and technicalities of the industry. The
long drawn gestation period in a product cycle is another reason for
VCs and PEs being reluctant, as it does not bring about quick RoI.
Barring a handful of firms that have a dedicated team for life sciences
and have allocated separate investments for this sector, there are many
firms for whom the sector remains in the periphery of their priorities.
Investors on the other hand claim that there is a lack of innovation in
the country. This is a stark contrast to funding firms in North America
and Europe where team members are veteran biologists and have had hands
on experience of the industry.
Spirit of entrepreneurship
has not caught on
look at quick RoIs which is why biotech does not appear to be their
Biotech in India might be
picking up but a lot depends on investments not just by funding firms
but on the willingness of the new age well informed entrepreneurs
opting for this sector. India has definitely brought out some
successful entrepreneurs like Dr Kiran Majumdar-Shaw of Biocon and
Varaprasad Reddy of Shantha Biotech but then the number of
entrepreneurs opting for the sector still remains small. Being a
science-intensive industry, entrepreneurs find it difficult to grasp
the dynamics. Also staring a venture in biotech requires heavy
investments and lack of funding mainly at early stages is a major
some recent initiatives by the DBT, the lack of infrastructure has been
a major bottleneck to promote R&D in India
It has been well said that
tomorrow belongs to those who can innovate today. This can come only
with effective research. As R&D forms the core of the biotech
industry, the availability of a better infrastructure plays an
important role in its overall success. Positive steps taken by the
government in the form of development of bioclusters with great
infrastructure at Faridabad, Bangalore and Mohali are commendable.
Despite these initiatives, there are certain areas that need to be
The lack of proper research infrastructure has been a major impediment
to the growth of life sciences industry. The not so easy access to
technology and information along with the better coordination between
researchers has been lacking. The need of the hour is a total revamp of
the existing structure to promote innovation as well as providing the
medium to achieve it including the increase in fund flows.
So far, Indian universities have not been able to get proper research
infrastructure. The better equipped labs and all the related facilities
required for research needs to be provided. There is also a need for
co-ordination in different research areas and sharing of facilities
between the government and the private sector.
lack of enabling institutional framework led to the
compartmentalization of public and private sector activities thus
hampering the cause of the research
Institutional framework has
been recognized as an essential component for the sustainability of the
industry. This involves the commitment and genuine involvement of a
broad variety of components namely the public sector services; the
scientific community; private firms; local and non-governmental
However, in India, gaps in institutional framework and the lack of
well-defined roles, have led to cases of conflict of interest between
different authorities thus hampering the growth.
Therefore, there is a need of having an institutional framework with
in-house competent experts from multidisciplinary fields dealing with
different aspects simultaneously and finalizing the decisions
concurrently. Such an institution could work under a single regulatory
authority that could oversee the bio-safety concerns right from the
stage of planning and research to product development.
This could produce innovative ways of broadening the research-funding
base and sharing responsibilities. Better liaison between research
providers and research users, and a balance among the research
organizations, could force the system to move towards a dynamic and
entrepreneurial approach, thus increasing the effectiveness of the
overall research system.