Biotechnology in Comparative
Perspective – Regional Concentration
and Industry Dynamics
Small Business Economics
17: 1–2, 2001.
2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Biotechnology is widely acknowledged as one of
the key technologies. Biotechnology provides a
broad spectrum of applications which, at the
moment, can be foreseen only partially. The
industry itself is growing rapidly. Policy planners
have looked with great interest at this industry
which is in special need of financial assistance.
For a long time, promotion of biotechnology
was technology-oriented and most studies have
examined the experiences of the technological and
economic forerunner, the United States. Attempts
have also been made to understand the dynamics
of innovation and the role played by multina-
tionals and small and medium-sized enterprises
to exploit the possibilities provided by biotech-
nological developments. In addition, there are a
number of very helpful sector studies.
This special issue of Small Business Economics
presents a different view on the development of
the biotechnology industry. Recently it has become
of great interest that the biotechnology industry
shows a marked tendency towards regional con-
centration. The development of a regionally based
biotechnology cluster seems to be an interesting
option for many a policy planner to enhance the
competitive advantage of a locality or region
and to guarantee growth and employment on a
medium- to long-term basis.
In Germany, the Federal Government initiated
the so called BioRegio contest in 1996. In
this contest Germany’s leading Biotech regions
competed for a given amount of public funding.
The contest has obviously led to a dynamic growth
in the number of biotech firms and the situation
of the biotechnology industry in Germany in
general has quite improved over the last years. For
a long time the United Kingdom seemed to be the
seat of the only European biotechnology industry
of importance. Meanwhile, Germany pretty much
closed the gap with the U.K. The state of Baden-
Württemberg in the South West of Germany
features three so-called BioRegios. One of them
(the Rhine-Neckar-Triangle) was among the
winners of the BioRegio contest.
The high visibility of the industry and the
accepted relevance of the industry for the future
development of the Baden-Württemberg industry
in general has prompted the Center of Technology
Assessment in Baden-Württemberg (CTA) to
conduct an international Workshop. CTA is a
publicly funded institution that is interested in
technology-related questions that are of signifi-
cance for the Baden-Württemberg region. One of
the aims is to learn from experiences made else-
The workshop took place in January 2000.
Participants in this workshop discussed the
available knowledge on spatial patterns in the
development of the biotechnology industry. Key
to an understanding of regional concentration
in this industry seems to be the concept of cluster
as developed by Michael Porter and others.
Clusters can be defined as geographic concentra-
tions of interconnected companies, specialized
suppliers, service providers, firms in related indus-
tries, and associated institutions (for example,
universities, standards agencies, and trade associ-
Final version accepted on December 1, 2000
Center for Technology Assessment