Although June’s BIO 2005 industry event in Philadelphia will attract a record number of exhibitors and delegates, a number of leading economic development agencies are scaling back their investment in the show and questioning the wisdom of devoting so much resource (both in terms of finance and personnel) to attracting FDI from the life sciences sector.

The wisdom of this move is open to debate, but what is clear is that corporate investment in this sector has been a long-term activity and is only now beginning to pay dividends. Now is not the time to bale out.

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Biotechnology is part of a wider sector, which includes healthcare (services and medical devices) and high technology (bioinformatics, chip technology and IT), which cross over and converge on many fronts. Take the state of Massachusetts as an example: 20 years ago, the top 50 stock-quoted companies in the state would have featured no biotech companies and very few high-tech firms. A recent Boston Business Journal survey (May 2005) of the top 150 companies in the state indicates how long-term investment can transform an economy. Today, six of the top 50 companies in the state are biotech firms and, if the wider healthcare and medical device sectors are included, eight of the top 50 are involved in the field. Taking into account high-tech companies (many of whom provide technology to the healthcare sector), then 40% of Massachusetts’ top 50 stock-quoted companies derive from sectors that barely existed 20 years ago.

Peter Lemagnen is a director of Oxford Intelligence

E-mail: peter.lemagnen@oxint.com