“Biotech is an intrinsic component of 21st century knowledge economy”

Government funding through grants can only provide initial ignition. It is imperative we create necessary enablers, which will improve availability of risk capital, writes the union minister of state for S&T, Mr Y S Chowdhary


y s chowdhary

About Author: Mr Yalamanchili Satyanarayana Chowdary is the Union Minister for State, Ministry of Science and Technology, & Earth Sciences (MoST& ES), Government of India, since November 9, 2014, when he took oath of office and secrecy.

It was a great delight to be the chief guest at the 5th Foundation Day celebrations of the Public Sector Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), being observed with a theme, ‘Impacting the Biotech Innovation Ecosystem’, and interacting with several leading scientists, officials and dignitaries, including Dr V. Harshvardhan, Prof K. Vijayaraghavan, Dr Renu Swarup, and Prof M K Bhan. It has been five years of successful operations for BIRAC, and given its extraordinary mandate, we know it has done a commendable job.

India is amongst the first countries which recognised the impact of Biotechnology on addressing the country’s needs to providing affordable medicine, food and energy security, nutrition and clear environment, which is why a separate Department of Biotechnology was created in the Ministry of Science & Technology.

Over the last few years, Biotechnology Industry has played an important role in manufacturing of low cost vaccines, increased agricultural productivity and made available products and technologies for renewable energy. These sectors have been growing steadily. We now have confidence to announce an ambitious target of a US$ 100 billion industry in the making in next few years.

BIRAC been able to connect academia and industry, besides catalysing the connecting of all stakeholders, as important approach in promoting growth of Biotech Industry. It has set a fast pace to respond to the needs of ecosystem and deliver programmes which overcome inherent risks in product development, especially those with long gestation periods.

The Government initiatives – Make In India and Startup India – have given a further boost to the sector. Today, we occupy a significant position in Global Biotech Startup Ecosystem. India is rapidly becoming the most preferred destination for International collaborative research.

Our Hon’ble Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan ji, is a wonderful doctor by profession. I am an Engineer. Prof Vijayaraghavan is an accomplished scientist. We become scientists, engineers and doctors with intellect and hard work. But producing an Entrepreneur is difficult – they belong to a different breed. One needs to have something beyond intellect, hard work and luck. Instincts, risk taking attributes are most important. Not many public funded agencies encourage risk taking and develop entrepreneurs. BIRAC does. It has contributed immensely to India’s economic growth in the last five years.

Through our recent policy initiatives, we made tremendous efforts to capture and stimulate entrepreneurial skills in youth. It is however important that while, we place a lot of importance on innovation-based research – both in terms of product and process innovation, we must also work towards building and enhancing manufacturing capability of BT sector.

When we look at immediate challenges in further development of Biotech Sector, what comes to my mind is access to risk capital. Government funding through grants can only provide initial ignition. It is imperative we create necessary enablers, which will improve availability of risk capital.

Mr Y S Chowdhary, Union minister of state for science & technology at the 5th BIRAC Foundation Day event recently in New Delhi. Also seen in the image are Dr M K Bhan and Dr K VijayRaghavan, the former and current secretary of DBT respectively.

BI is a long gestation sector with high levels of risk and uncertainties. We have to angel investors and private Venture Capitalists to bring in desired investment into this sector. We need to look at global best examples. The government and private sector have to work together to overcome the challenges. Biotechnology is one of our sunrise sectors and an intrinsic component of 21st century knowledge economy.

BIRAC has today reached a significant milestone. BIRAC must leverage its existing strengths and scale up to make greater impact and benefit to society at large. I congratulate BIRAC and all stakeholders who have contributed successfully to the growth of this enterprise and wish you good luck in future endeavours.

Note: This article has been originally written by Mr Y S Chowdhary on his Linkedin page. BioVoice News is replicating it here for the broader audience in the bioscience industry.