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About

Editor-in-Chief,   Anatole Krattiger

Editorial Board

Concept Foundation

PIPRA

Fiocruz, Brazil

bioDevelopments-   Institute

CHAPTER NO. 3.12   What Does It Take to Build a Local Biotechnology Cluster in a Small Country? The Case of Turku, Finland
Editor's Summary, Implications and Best Practices

Krattiger A, RT Mahoney, L Nelsen, JA Thomson, AB Bennett, K Satyanarayana, GD Graff, C Fernandez and SP Kowalski. 2007. Editor’s Summary, Implications and Best Practices (Chapter 3.12). From the online version of Intellectual Property Management in Health and Agricultural Innovation: A Handbook of Best Practices. MIHR: Oxford, U.K., and PIPRA: Davis, U.S.A. Available online at www.ipHandbook.org.

© 2007. A Krattiger et al. Sharing the Art of IP Management: Photocopying and distribution through the Internet for noncommercial purposes is permitted and encouraged.

Editor's Summary

Turku is home to the second largest concentration (after Helsinki) of biotechnology activities in Finland. The Turku region is especially strong in biopharmaceuticals, but its firms are also involved in diagnostics, biomaterials, and functional foods. Although the growth of biotechnology in Turku has been very rapid, the roots of the industry are much older. Older, larger, companies have provided local expertise in business and development activities, as well as labor pools for new spinouts. Several studies have noted that, in biotechnology, the performance, strength and width of the scientific base are perhaps the most important factors affecting industry development. Therefore, a constellation of capabilities and infrastructure are necessary to form the foundation for biotechnology clusters. Indeed, the Finnish model for supporting biotechnology has been described as a science-led strategy form above.

Indeed, several lessons for policymakers can be found in attempts to create biotechnology clusters. Above all, more attention should be given to endogenous development, specifically to local small to medium-sized enterprises and to spinouts. Attracting foreign companies can be a good short-term strategy because they will bring jobs and in some cases knowledge and expertise. However, foreign companies often keep their main decision-making and core R&D close to their headquarters. Companies attracted to a country or region are also often less rooted to the local innovation environment and are therefore more prone to leave. Support should therefore target local entrepreneurship. This could include providing financial incentives, securing a high skill labor market, and building a legal environment that encourages the establishment of new businesses. At a more general level, building up the local education system is a basic prerequisite for meeting the needs of young technology companies. Most of Finland’s success is based on high-level, basic education. Lastly, limited resources should be concentrated on the most promising companies in the most developed, most advanced technology fields. This requires specific policies for evaluating levels of R&D and business.

The main issue for universities is to ensure a high level of education. This cultivates top experts who can understand the potential of biotechnology and seize new opportunities. Partnerships with other universities can strengthen such educational programs, and collaboration is also important for enhancing research infrastructure. Indeed, Turku’s experiences suggest that sharing facilities with companies and combining forces with other universities and R&D institutes are vital ways of building facilities and getting equipment. Active partnerships with bigger companies can also support the procurement of skilled personnel. Finally, universities should help scientists build international connections as much as possible by providing financial support for networking, studying, and doing research abroad. Finland’s experience shows that countries that find it difficult to attract foreign experts can more easily obtain expertise by sending students and researchers abroad to seek knowledge and connections. However, without lucrative positions and conditions for research at home, these trained professionals might stay abroad permanently. Providing good opportunities for potential returnees is therefore quite important.

It should also be recognized that building clusters from scratch is impossible. A path forward shoul build upon existing strengths; indeed, many successful clusters have been based on older but related industries. Such growth will require local and national policy support, as well as that indispensable ingredient for success: local networks of key individuals. By focusing on these elements, Turku has grown a healthy biotechnology cluster, one that can provide some useful lessons for similar efforts elsewhere. Although the circumstances of local biotechnology clusters in Finland are not directly related to those of developing countries, some challenges are similar for all emerging life sciences clusters. Indeed, many developing countries will face similar challenges as Turku has, and hence, the lessons learned and shared in this chapter from the experience of Turku will have broad-ranging applicability and cross-transferability to similar efforts in developing countries.

Key Implications and Best Practices

Given that IP management is heavily context specific, these Key Implications and Best Practices are intended as starting points to be adapted to specific needs and circumstances.

For Government Policymakers

  • More emphasis should be concentrated on endogenous development, specifically to local small businesses and spinouts.
  • Biotechnology clusters grow from preexisting strengths, capabilities and infrastructure. Therefore, it is essential to encourage, foster and support policies and initiatives for tangible capacity building and infrastructure development in science and technology.

For Senior Management (university president, R&D manager, etc)

  • Collaborative projects with other universities and industry should be encouraged and supported. Sharing know-how, show-how, resources and equipment will catalyze R&D and commercialization of essential innovations in health and agriculture.

For Scientists

  • Collaboration is often based on establishing personal contacts, for example building close connections to other scientists and research groups in the same field via conferences and reciprocal visiting arrangements; these all foster the formation of collaborative research projects.
  • Actively engage in local cluster activities in which people share their experiences about not only their own field but more generally about innovation and commercialization issues.
  • Studying issues with local relevance (such as specific diseases or crops and plants) is often worthwhile, because expertise about the local environment can provide advantages over foreign competitors.

For Technology Transfer Officers

  • When it comes to building clusters, helping to secure IP rights for research should be more important than potential commercial gains. This approach more appropriately matches the longer-term objectives of development. Technology licensing should be seen as a service for scientists rather than as a machine for generating revenue flow.
  • Technology licensing officers need to actively identify innovations early in order to discover their commercialization potential. Researchers often need help to identify good concepts.
  • In a dynamic biotechnology cluster, strong capacity in IP management, technology transfer and licensing is essential, as there will be rapidly advancing programs and numerous collaborative efforts.

Krattiger A, RT Mahoney, L Nelsen, JA Thomson, AB Bennett, K Satyanarayana, GD Graff, C Fernandez and SP Kowalski. 2007. Editor’s Summary, Implications and Best Practices (Chapter 3.12). From the online version of Intellectual Property Management in Health and Agricultural Innovation: A Handbook of Best Practices. MIHR: Oxford, U.K., and PIPRA: Davis, U.S.A. Available online at www.ipHandbook.org.

© 2007. A Krattiger et al. Sharing the Art of IP Management: Photocopying and distribution through the Internet for noncommercial purposes is permitted and encouraged.