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AFRO-NETS> Biotechnology innovation centre launched in Western Cape (South Africa)

  • Subject: AFRO-NETS> Biotechnology innovation centre launched in Western Cape (South Africa)
  • From: Vanessa Thomas <vanessa.thomas@capebiotech.co.za>
  • Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003 10:40:37 -0400 (EDT)

Biotechnology innovation centre launched in Western Cape (South Africa)

12 June 2003- Cape Town - Cape Biotech, the third South African Bio-
technology Regional Innovation Centre (BRIC), funded by the Depart-
ment of Science and Technology, will be launched today. Three BRIC's
have been established across South Africa, Cape Biotech, EcoBIO and
BIOPAD. Although the BRICs are regionally focused, they are not going
to operate independently. There is a process of facilitating collabo-
ration across all BRICs to create a national cohesiveness between all
three centres.

Cape Biotech has been awarded ZAR 12.5m for 2002, ZAR 32 million for
2003, ZAR 39 million for 2004 and ZAR 52 million for 2005. The fund-
ing has been committed to establish the Western Cape's BRIC under the
auspices of the SA National Biotechnology Strategy. The funding
across all three BRIC's is about ZAR 140 million per annum. As indi-
cated in the strategy document, biotechnology is a cross-cutting
technology with wide application, across sectors and biological
boundaries. The biotechnology industry is a research-intensive indus-
try spending between 40% and 50% of revenue on Research and Develop-
ment (R&D). This is much higher than the average research intensity
of about 5% of revenue on R&D, or even the pharmaceuticals industry's
average research intensity of 13%.

The development and application of biotechnology requires a conver-
gence of skills from a variety of disciplines. It requires appropri-
ate combinations of biochemistry, genetics, information technology,
engineering and several other areas of expertise. It is truly a
multi-disciplinary field and development in this sector requires the
establishment of links or partnerships between science, engineering
and technology institutions (SETIs) and private companies. Biotech-
nology is thus a highly-networked endeavor. Cape Biotech has two ma-
jor functions: industry stimulation and capacity creation; and dis-
seminating and managing government funds by investment in commer-
cially promising projects. Through a portfolio of projects which are
regionally focused, the Cape Biotech will act as a centre for the de-
velopment of a range of businesses and new product offerings, as well
as have the capacity to support these. This will, in turn, contribute
to the development of world-class skills, economic development and
job creation in the region. With an interest in capacity creation,
portfolio and knowledge management, Cape Biotech is therefore a clus-
ter development initiative in addition to a funding body.

It is estimated that 60% of SA Biotechnology start-ups approaching
venture capitalists for funding originate in the Western Cape and the
region has well-developed expertise in medical, environmental, phar-
maceutical, industrial and agricultural biotech, as well as in bioin-
formatics and genomics. In addition there is a rapidly developing
business support network, including several globally competitive bio-
technology companies. The region is known for its rich plant biodi-
versity which is a unique source of novel molecules. The aim is to
create as many commercially viable life sciences entities in the
Western Cape as possible. Cape Biotech has been through two proposal
call processes, which resulted in the short-listing of 16 projects.
Approximately three quarters of the short-listed projects relate to
human health and the balance to industrial bioprocessing. Plant bio-
technology will not be funded by Cape Biotech but PlantBIO, managed
by Mark Laing's group in Durban, will service this area nationally.

Cape Biotech also has a mandate from government to become operation-
ally self-sustaining and the objective is to use the funds in the
most 'value-effective' manner for the recipient parties. The money
allocated to Cape Biotech is not intended to replicate grant-funding
bodies but rather to stimulate a need to commercialise through the
conditions for funding. In addition, Cape Biotech aims to define a
regional branding and marketing strategy to develop global alliances
with other similar initiatives and potentially attract other donor

Vanessa Thomas
Marketing & Knowledge Manager
Cape Biotech
89 Kloof Str, Gardens 8001
South Africa
Tel: +27-21-426-0022
Fax: +27-21-426-0029
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