ShareBiotech is an INTERREG IVB Atlantic Area Project which contributes to the 1st priority of the programme aiming to promote transnational entrepreneurial and innovation networks. It aims to develop knowledge transfer between companies and research centres. ShareBiotech’s main objective is to strengthen the biotechnology sector within the Atlantic Area. Led by French organisations, the project is implemented by a consortium of 10 partners from 4 Member States (France, Ireland, Portugal and Spain) and 7 regions.
ShareBiotech actions will make the access to technological core facilities easier for researchers and companies – in particular SMEs – working in the fields of human health, nutrition, agriculture/food-processing, cosmetics, marine biology and environment. Thereby, it contributes to facilitating R&D projects by providing high-standard technological service offers as well as through collaborative research projects.
Life sciences and biotechnology are widely recognized to be, after ICT, the next wave of the knowledge-based economy, creating new opportunities for economies. Within the last 15 years, there has been a globalised boom in the advancement of techniques and instrumentation in biotechnology. Modern biotechnology can be defined as use of cellular, molecular and genetic processes in production of goods and services. Unlike traditional biotechnology – which includes fermentation and plant and animal hybridisation – modern biotechnology involves a different set of enabling technologies, i.e. technologies that serve all life science domains and improve significantly the performance and capabilities of the users.
These technologies refer mainly to recombinant DNA processes and “omics” technologies, but also relate to imaging, nanobiotechnology and bioinformatics. Behind this jargon, significant progress has been made in therapeutic and diagnostic solutions (e.g. genetic testing, supply of safer products like insulin or vaccines), breeding of crops, livestock and fish (e.g. genetic markers), food and cosmetics safety (identification of REACH molecules), among others. These technologies are becoming more and more complex and expensive and require appropriate operating conditions and a skilled workforce, justifying the need for actions supported by the project.
There is currently a movement within the EU towards better structuring of research infrastructures (ESFRI Roadmap, FP7-Infrastructures). The infrastructures and facilities of the life science domain tend to be fragmented and multisite and the challenge is to ensure cohesion and integration to attain a critical mass.
The dimension of the Atlantic Area research domain means that if it is to be competitive and a motor for development resource pooling, accessibility to, and networking of existing mid-size technological core facilities is a priority.
This key challenge for ShareBiotech partners was addressed by creation of a network of TCFs (technological Core facilities) responding to quality standards. The ShareBiotech project considers technological core facilities as a node to bridge the gap between state-of-the art technology supply and current and forthcoming technology demands.
Actually, there is a technology imbalance among life science fields themselves. The human health sector is at the forefront whereas other sectors are less technology-intensive (agro-food, environment…). The ShareBiotech project aims at reducting imbalance between life science and biotechnology fields thanks to technology diffusion and cross-fertilisation between life science fields and related technologies: health, environment, agro-food and nutrition, agriculture, bioinformatics, imaging, nanotechnologies and, last but not least, marine science. Interdisciplinarity is the key to leverage the biotechnology sector in the Atlantic Area.
The focus of ShareBiotech is modern biotechnology and implicitly a multidisciplinary approach. The starting point of the project was to identify the needs for modern biotechnology resulting from the development of basic and applied research in life sciences. The project not only conducted an inventory of existing technology offers : it also promoted a 'bottom up' approach and strove in partnership with stakeholders to find appropriate technological answers through adaptation of the technology offering.
The challenge lies in understanding the diversity of needs, from clear demands from specialized life science researchers, to vaguely expressed needs from SMEs of the less-technology intensive sectors. Actually there is a dichotomy between researchers and high-tech companies (notably companies from the healthcare sector), and SMEs having real research needs but unable to turn them into a precise demand for a specific technology.