Australasian Biotechnology, Vol. 10 No. 4, 2000, pp. 2
FROM THE PRESIDENT
MOST VALUED CUSTOMERS
Peter Rogers, National President
Code Number: au00036
Robert Gottliebsen of The Australian newspaper thinks that the future belongs to companies that make the effort to know who their clients are and what they like. The Federal Government is making a determined effort to get to know what the industry is thinking as well as providing funds to get to know what research is able to provide. In Brisbane at the ABA2000 conference, both the Queensland Deputy Premier Jim Elder, and the Science Minister, Senator Minchin, described biotechnology as one of the most important industry sectors of the new century.
Senator Minchin has committed around $30 million to support biotechnology as part of the new National Biotechnology Strategy. Around $20 million will be used to set up the Biotechnology Innovation Fund to fund the gap between bench research and commercialization - to provide, if you like, commercial accreditation of programs before they are offered to the public. This is designed to boost the apparently poor take-up of local discovery.
If the R&D sector knows who their customers are and what they like, in the same way that, according to Gottliebsen, CBA, Telstra, Coles Myer, Qantas and the NRMA know their customer base and their competitors, we should do a better job linking biotech discovery and business. True, the ethical and the regulatory frameworks are not quite the same for an air traffic carrier like Impulse for instance, and a therapeutic manufacturer like CSL. Except both have to win markets aggressively and both have a myriad of regulatory requirements that need to be met. It would be an eye opener and refreshing if the Biotechnology Strategy was able, over time to result in Australian Research Council SPIRT grant applicants addressing markets, risks and commercialization.
The National Biotechnology Strategy is also going to fund a study of the costs and benefits of GM products to agriculture and the food sector. Australia and New Zealand share the same concerns and the New Zealanders have just launched a Royal Commission into the area, with the NZ Government advocating a 12-month moratorium on the release of GMOs while the Commission is in progress.
There are sectors that definitely do not want GM-sourced materials. There are others that may accept them. Segregation benefits and costs need to be considered. Running segregated product streams for the barley industry for instance may give brewers a real headache. I hope that this topic gets a broad airing in the manufacturing sector.
We are also making an effort to know who our clients are and what they want. We know, from talking to Biotechnology Australia, that the Government wants to hear what the biotech start-ups and the corporates are thinking and desire. There probably isnt room for several organizations to represent the biotech industry, just as there isnt room for the CBA, AMP, Telstra and so on, to blitz the Australian market with a vast array of new Email products, for arguments sake, because as we know their customer bases overlap.
The Governments National Biotechnology Strategy clearly wants to link the biotech discovery and innovations providers with the market. ABA has a unique mixture of member interests and we are well placed to provide advice to the government on the industry from cradle to factory.
Our organization needs to know how to grow and broaden our own client and membership base. Past President Joan Dawes and Kelvin Hopper focused on this in 97 and produced a business plan to move the Association towards its own professional secretariat.
The current review of the needs of ABA stakeholders and the biotechnology industry by an ABA working party may extend their pioneering work.
I noticed that some of the small and successful local, private companies working in biotech were not at the 2000 meeting - innovative, private companies providing value-added feed materials to the international pharma industry, and others making novel products for food processing. I am a bit worried that we may forget these clever and entrepreneurial private companies working back a little from the blue sky - but very profitably. The debate about where to now should also draw on these wider viewpoints.
Dr Peter Rogers
Copyright 2000 - Australiasian Biotechnology
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