30 Jan 2017, BioSpectrum Bureau , Biospecindia
What is the current status of BT parks in India and their occupancy level? Which states are doing great, which are ok and which are below average? Some parks believed to have very low level of occupancy. Which are they and what are the reasons for the same?
With the sustained interest across the biopharma value chain, the demand for specialised infrastructure and incubators continues to be moderate to strong. Currently, more than 15 biotech parks are operational in the country and many upcoming parks are still at an initial stage of conducting basic ground work for their establishment.
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), together with various state governments are playing a major role in setting up biotechnology parks across the country.
The occupancy level in biotech parks depends upon various factors such as the availability of the specialised infrastructure, incubation facilities, enabling ecosystem and state policies, among others. The prevalence of a vibrant ecosystem is essential to the success of the Park. While at many locations elements of the ecosystem exists, they being joined together is at time absent. This is reflected in the mixed level of success in this space.
Currently, only a few biotech parks that support industry with ready-to-use lab facilities for R&D, incubation support for start-ups and dedicated land for scaling up activities are operational in India.
Lack of operational infrastructure at competitive rates, along with lack of biopharmaceutical specific infrastructure such as large animal testing facilities, transgenic animal facilities, chemical and molecular screening libraries, advanced protein characterisation facilities, trade-related testing and accreditation facilities, etc. are hindering the growth of the biotechnology sector in the country.
Biotechnology requires easy access to centres of excellence in R&D, a platform for interaction with larger mature companies, funding options and service providers. A cluster-based approach is the only way for to ensure success of enterprises in the region. In India, Bengaluru and Hyderabad have thriving clusters with presence of many R&D institutes, small to large biotech companies, start-ups, universities, talent pool and service providers to manage the available biotechnology infrastructure. However, these clusters need to establish stronger linkages and work in tandem towards a common objective and vision. Though these two biotech clusters are fully operational, more collaborations amongst the operating units, such as industry-academia linkage, technology transfer, etc., is required and expected going forward. The role of the Government cannot be understated. In addition to providing basic infrastructure, speedy regulatory clearances, investment in brand building and creating next generation infrastructure is vital.
Several states, such as Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana are leading with the presence of Biotechnology parks. Many other states, such as Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, West Bengal, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh are catching up, and have submitted proposals to DBT for setting up of new Biotechnology parks.
Do BT parks service the purpose for which they are started? Particularly related to knowledge creation? If not, or if partially meeting, what and where are the gaps in objectives and their fulfillment? What is needed to be done to overcome the gaps?
Biotechnology parks are established to promote innovation and facilitate product advancement through the development of biotechnology specific industrial clusters. It also aims to lay a strong foundation of innovation and research for entrepreneurs and biotechnologists. A report by ‘Research and Information System for Developing Countries' has indicated that knowledge creation in terms of scientific publications from biotechnology parks in India is around 60 articles per year (out of 600 articles per year globally). Physical Sciences and Life Sciences are two key areas of publications from these biotech parks. Further, the study indicated that collaboration between academia and industry needs to be looked into, especially in quantitative terms.
To meet the objective of their establishment, Biotechnology parks need to establish a technical committee to examine all aspiring tenants. The committee can also look into providing a strong cluster-specific business environment with focus on niche areas that add to the unique value that a cluster should provide to its occupant organisations and researchers.
What challenges do startups face when they set up their office in biotech parks? Is there any different between government owned biotech park and private initiative? How difficult or easy to do business from biotech parks?
The establishment of biotech parks in the country is in line with the aim of providing cost benefits to industry and prepare the companies for global competition while bolstering the R&D and manufacturing activities in the sector. Cluster based approach offers an effective and sustainable ecosystem for enabling quality, and productivity in the industry at a single set-up. They create an ecosystem that nurtures collaboration and innovation with the combined efforts of academia, research institutes and companies at one place.
Success of biotech parks depends upon a lot of factors including availability of talent; related infrastructure such as testing facilities, critical services like IP and most importantly the industry ecosystem. While some parks in India have all these elements together, some are still in the process of development.
Start-ups require additional nurturing and access for which they require access to research and testing facilities; funding and experienced mentoring; and industry (including IP attorney and academia) and supplier ecosystem.
Given India's dominance in the sector globally; immense talent in the sector; and with favourable regulatory and policy changes, it is only a matter of time when BT parks will start showing the success they truly deserve.