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Stats NZ releases Bioscience Survey 2011

24 Apr, 2012

Human health and natural products are an important focus of this country’s bioscience sector according to the Bioscience Survey 2011 released on 17 February 2012 by Statistics New Zealand.

The government department found that over half of the 474 bioscience organisations surveyed applied bioscience in these sectors.

According to the department, human health and natural products include goods such as dietary supplements, skincare products and natural foods with health claims.

The second-largest area of application was animal-based bioscience, with 38% of organisations working in this area. This was followed by human biomedical science and drug discovery, with 37% of organisations working in this area.

Profits from bioscience organisations

Around 150 organisations identified bioscience as their primary focus. They generated an average profit of $640 000 from bioscience work. This compares with an average profit of $117 000 for all organisations in New Zealand.

These ‘core’ bioscience organisations employed nearly 2000 people for bioscience work. They tend to be small organisations, with over two-thirds having fewer than 10 employees.

Most bioscience activity in Auckland and Northland region

Half of all bioscience organisations undertook activities in several regions of New Zealand or overseas. The other half carried out all their activity within a single region. Most bioscience activity occurred in the Auckland and Northland region (22% of the surveyed organisations). However, the upper South Island gave them a run for their money with 19% of bioscience activity.

Of the bioscience business partnerships and alliances formed overseas, those with the United States were the most common across all groups, followed by Europe and Australia.

Economic impact of bioscience

“Lots of organisations have bioscience as only a part of their business so it’s hard to say exactly how much the country is earning from it. But what we do know is that purely bioscience-based organisations earned $677 million last year, over half of that from exports,” says science and technology manager Hamish Hill.

Mr Hill said the economic impact of bioscience also includes 330 other organisations that don’t have bioscience as their primary focus but do use it in research or manufacturing.

“If we take a broad view of all the organisations using bioscience in some way, they earned $40 billion last year. Clearly that’s not all attributable to bioscience but it does demonstrate that a large section of the economy is involved in the sector and two-thirds of the organisations are planning to release new products in the next 2 years.”

From 2009 to 2011, there was a significant increase in the number of organisations identified as being in scope for the Bioscience Survey. Most of the increase was in the number of ‘active’ organisations – for the purposes of the survey active organisations are defined as organisations that operate outside the bioscience field but use bioscience processes to manufacture their products. In 2009, 123 reported bioscience activity in the survey. This rose to 291 in 2011.

Scope of Bioscience Survey

The Bioscience Survey 2011 covers areas such as aquaculture, medical testing, microbes and horticulture, which have applications in diverse fields including health foods, wine and beer manufacturing, animal and plant breeding as well as in biotechnology.

Regional employment counts are a good indicator of the scale of bioscience activity. Auckland and Northland organisations had a large average size in 2011. While 25% of core organisations had activity in that region, 51% of bioscience staff worked there. By comparison, 18% of core organisations’ bioscience activities and 19% of bioscience staff were in the upper South Island region. For core organisations, Otago and Southland had the lowest number of staff (3% of the total).

Types of technologies used

The survey also examined the use of bioscience technologies by development stage – from research and development (R&D) to commercialisation. Of the bioscience technologies being used in 2011, 51% took place in the R&D stage, 26% in the production process stage and 23% in the product sold stage. The types of technologies most used were in the proteins, lipids, carbohydrates and other area (40% of all technologies used), which now includes natural products. Process biosciences (19%) were the next most-used technology. The least-used technology was DNA and RNA vectors (2%).

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