On 26 April 2012, the Obama Administration released its National Bioeconomy Blueprint. Describing the ‘bioeconomy’ as an economy “based on the use of research and innovation in the biological sciences to create economic activity and public benefit,” the White House emphasized its “tremendous potential for growth” and the many “societal benefits it offers.”

The Bioeconomy Blueprint charts recent advances in health, energy, agriculture, and environmental studies. Individualized medical treatments, biomaterials, plant-derived biofuels, disease-resistant crops with higher yields, and microorganisms that break down ecosystem contamination are fledgling developments derived from the bioeconomy. To ensure that the bioeconomy continues to flourish domestically, the Blueprint highlights five strategic objectives that need to be met.

The first objective is to invest in research and development (R&D) in areas that are foundational for the future bioeconomy.” The report notes that “a robust biological/biomedical R&D enterprise, backed by government, foundations, and for profit investments, is necessary to produce the new knowledge, ideas, and foundational technologies required to develop products and services that support businesses and industries and help create jobs.” To ensure success of this objective, federal agencies will need to select R&D investments strategically for maximum effect, implement a cross-disciplinary approach to research problems, and create funding procedures that are more flexible.

More needs to be done to help facilitate the transition of bioinventions from research labs to commercial markets. The report states the Administration’s commitment to commercializing research developments and fostering entrepreneurs who are rooted in the bioeconomy.

The government will also strive to “develop and reform regulations to reduce barriers, increase the speed and predictability of regulatory processes, and reduce costs while protecting human and environmental health.” The Administration acknowledges that logical, transparent regulations are preferable to antiquated, restrictive rules that no longer reflect the current environment. Federal agencies should ensure that their regulations are “cost-effective, evidence-based…[and] compatible with economic growth, job creation, and competitiveness.”

Student training programs will need to be updated to ensure that Americans gain the necessary skills to work in the bioeconomy. This could involve restructuring training programs and realigning academic institution incentives.

Lastly, the report calls for the identification and support of public-private partnerships and precompetitive collaborations. The report calls for academic institutions and private companies to join with the federal government “to invent, deploy, and scale the cutting-edge technologies that will create new jobs, spark new breakthroughs, and reinvigorate America today and in the future.” Potential areas of collaboration include biofuels, food security, and biotheaputics.

The Bioeconomy Blueprint is replete with examples of federal projects already underway that contribute to the bioeconomy. For the full report, visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/04/26/national-bioeconomy-blueprint-released.

 


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