Life science

Vilnius takes the lead in the biotechnology industry: 10-fold growth in a decade


Vilnius takes the lead in the biotechnology industry: 10-fold growth in a decade

Last autumn, EFIB 2022, Europe’s largest forum for the industrial biotechnology and the bioeconomy, was organised in Vilnius and has already shown results. High-tech experts from 18 countries agreed on the urgency of the economic and geopolitical threats facing Europe. The potential changes considered by the participants have been translated into EuropaBio’s EFIB Vilnius Statement, which Lithuania started implementing shortly after its publication.

Lithuania is ready to take the lead in biotechnology

The 15th annual forum for biotechnology and the bioeconomy, which attracted 350 participants, focused on shaping a vision for Europe’s biotechnology industry. A document signed at the event pointed out that Europe should recognise the development of its own biotechnology industry as one of the cornerstones of its move towards a green economy. To this end, leaders should facilitate the creation of biotechnology industry ecosystems, attracting investors and talent. According to Agnė Vaitkevičienė, Vice President of the Lithuanian Biotechnology Association, the country is already well prepared to move towards these goals.

Mrs. Agnė Vaitkevičienė, Vice President of the Lithuanian Biotechnology Association

According to the Lithuanian Biotechnology Association, in 2021, the sector generated revenues of EUR 2.6 billion (EUR 1.9 billion in 2020), and one private sector employee generated revenues of approximately EUR 0.95 million (EUR 0.78 million in 2020). The number of private sector employees in this field has also increased, rising to 2 790 in 2021 compared to 2020, which is 565 employees more than two years ago. Since 2010, our country’s biotechnology revenues have jumped more than 11 times.

“In Lithuania in 2022, stakeholders in the sector, including science, business and the private sector, have started to shape the Lithuanian life sciences roadmap to identify the key gaps in our country that are hindering consistent growth. This has led to detailed action plans to improve the legal framework, develop talent skills, attract new employees and foster innovation. I am pleased that Lithuania’s active participation in the international biotechnology sector has led to a more proactive approach to the added value it brings. It is true that significant investments are needed to bring about change or to achieve the set goals,” says Ms Vaitkevičienė.

Last year, the country’s capital city integrated all the major high-tech companies into one ecosystem, called Vilnius TechFusion. Inga Romanovskienė, Head of Vilnius Tourism and Business Development Agency Go Vilnius, says this shows the leadership of not only Vilnius biotechnology industry, but also the city as a whole in this area.

“This forum and the statement adopted here are a great way to demonstrate to the world that our country, and Vilnius in particular, can show leadership in the development of life sciences and create an ecosystem that is conducive to the growth of biotechnology businesses. As the EFIB Vilnius Statement shows, the biotechnology sector will be increasingly interlinked with other industries and technological innovation in the future, and we need to prepare for this now. Vilnius TechFusion was established to integrate large companies and innovative startups into one organism,” says Ms Romanovskienė.

The Vilnius biotechnology industry is growing every year

Experts from the biotechnology industry of the continent gathered at the forum to make three long-term appeals to the European Union’s leaders to address the Community’s regulatory and policy, education and funding measures. European leaders are being asked to take long-term decisions to lay the foundations for the development of the biotechnology industry (e.g. the genetically modified product industry) and to maximise the economic benefits of high-tech by developing people’s skills and thus integrating them into the labour market. They also propose the development of new financial instruments that can be used by biotechnology companies to bring new scientific discoveries into mainstream use. According to Agnė Vaitkevičienė, Vice President of the Lithuanian Biotechnology Association, the leadership of Vilnius in this field is unquestionable.

“The life sciences sector is identified by the state as one of the three priority sectors in Lithuania. Health sciences and biotechnology, including medical, industrial agricultural and food biotechnology, is the main focus of this sector. The Lithuanian biotechnology sector has grown 10-fold in the last decade, and many of the sector’s companies are concentrated in Vilnius. These include companies such as Thermo Fisher Scientific Baltic, recognised as the most valuable company in the Baltic countries, Biotechpharma, Teva, and startups such as Caszyme, Biomatter, Droplet Genomics and others. The breakthrough is plain to see and has been made possible by the considerable state investments in the life sciences and biotechnology sector a decade ago. The Life Sciences Centre in Vilnius is one such example. In addition to its international research, the Centre is the initiator of many startups,” Ms Vaitkevičienė welcomed the progress.

Contribution to attracting talent

One of the key actions of the Vilnius EFIB Statement is to improve talent skills and attract talent. Agnė Vaitkevičienė says that the proactive approach of the capital city helps companies in this area. “Vilnius actively contributes to attracting talent. International House Vilnius, a centre for the relocation and integration of foreigners, which has been operating for just over a year, helps new arrivals to integrate more smoothly, while relocation reimbursements and support for the organisation of international conferences help to attract them. At the same time, companies and research institutions in Vilnius are actively cooperating to improve the skills of the professionals they train and are developing new training programmes,” says Ms Vaitkevičienė about the support for the biotechnology industry.

In Lithuania, the industrial biotechnology industry accounts for around 2.5% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The Lithuanian life sciences sector comprises more than 400 companies, mostly based in Vilnius, with around 3 000 employees. The average salary in this field is around EUR 2 800. The most important biotechnology industries are industrial and medical biotechnology. Many of the industry’s products are exported to more than 100 countries, mainly the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Poland.