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Bioscience Survey: 2009
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  15 February 2010
Commentary (Corrected 4 November 2011)

Bioscience Survey 2009

The Bioscience Survey 2009 replaces and expands on Statistics New Zealand's previous Biotechnology Survey. The change was carried out to provide more and better information on a wider range of technologies. The changes reflect increasing interest in bioscience technologies due to the part they play in underpinning many of the important sectors of the New Zealand economy. The information gathered is intended to measure the contribution of bioscience to the New Zealand economy and to assist in the formation of policies and procedures in support of bioscience business activity. The survey measures the use of biosciences and their uptake by organisations. The survey also asked respondents about the characteristics of their organisations, including the use of strategic alliances, information sharing, and constraints on bioscience work.

Guide to interpreting the data

The following summary highlights the main points to consider when analysing the Bioscience Survey 2009 results. A full description is contained in the Technical notes of this release. The Technical notes also outline the changes resulting from the expansion of the survey from biotechnology to bioscience.

Definition of bioscience

Bioscience is the development and application of knowledge of the way plants, animals, and humans function for the development of products and services.

Bioscience activities may occur in the following areas:

  • agriculture feedstock and chemicals
  • aquaculture, horticulture, and forestry
  • human and animal therapeutics and diagnostics (including clinical trial providers)
  • medical devices and equipment
  • research testing and medical laboratories
  • microbes
  • biotechnology

The definition of biotechnology used in the survey is consistent with the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recommendations outlined in the draft Biotechnology Statistical Framework. Full details are included in the Technical notes section.

Data collection

The Bioscience Survey 2009 was conducted as a postal survey of all organisations that were thought to be involved in bioscience. Further information on the selection and size of the population can be found in the Technical notes of this release.

Bioscience organisations

In order to determine the organisations involved in bioscience, the survey collected information about the sector that the organisations work in. The bioscience sector falls into three groups. The core group of organisations are those for which bioscience is the main activity and are focused on the production of bioscience products. The active group operates in fields other than bioscience, but uses bioscience processes for the manufacturing of their products. The research group is made up of organisations involved in the research and development of bioscience processes and includes the tertiary education sector, Crown research institutes, and other research organisations.

Two hundred and sixty-seven organisations indicated they are involved in bioscience in some way. This is made up of 108 core organisations, 123 active organisations, and 36 research organisations. Of the total 267 organisations, 213 fitted the scope of the previous biotechnology survey. This shows that while there has been some increase due to a move to bioscience, there has also been an increase in the size of the underlying biotechnology sector.

Most core and active organisations employed less than 10 employees, accounting for 72 core and 48 active organisations. Most research organisations (21 of the 36) had 100 or more employees.

Graph, Size of organisations using bioscience, by bioscience group, 2009.

Bioscience area of application

The area of bioscience application indicates which area the bioscience research, products, or services produced or utilised by the organisation fits into. The greatest number of organisations work in the area of innovative foods and human nutrition (117 organisations). Of these organisations, 54 came from the active group. The area of human biomedical science and drug discovery (114 organisations) was a close second, with 54 of these organisations from the core group. Most research organisations reported working in innovative foods and human nutrition and the environmental technologies areas (both 24).

Graph, Bioscience area of application, 2009.

Use of bioscience technologies in New Zealand

In addition to area of application, the survey also examines the use of bioscience technologies by development stage, in order to indicate the progression of biosciences through the pipeline from research and development (R&D) to commercialisation. Of the bioscience technologies being used, 56 percent take place in the R&D stage, 24 percent in the production process stage, and 20 percent in the product sold stage. The types of technologies most used are in the proteins and molecules area (23 percent) and DNA – the coding area (22 percent). The least used technology is DNA and RNA vectors, at 3 percent.

Bioscience use by region

The bioscience survey measures area of application across regions in New Zealand and overseas. Organisations can undertake activities in multiple regions; 114 bioscience organisations reported having activities in multiple locations around New Zealand or overseas, whilst 150 organisations reported having activities in a single location, either in New Zealand or overseas. The largest proportion of all organisations (core, active, and research) have activities in the Auckland and Northland region (22 percent), whilst 19 percent have activities in the upper South Island, which includes Tasman, Marlborough, Canterbury, and the West Coast. Levels of bioscience activities are similar across the remaining regions at 9–13 percent.

Whilst these figures show the spread of bioscience activities by location, they do not show the scale of activity in each region. To give an indication of this, information on the proportion of core organisations' bioscience staff was collected. This gives a similar pattern of predominant regions, but with greater differences in scale across the regions. For example, while 26 percent of core organisations have activities in the Auckland and Northland region, the region accounts for 54 percent of bioscience staff. This compared to the upper South Island region, which accounts for 23 percent of core organisations' bioscience activities, but only 16 percent of bioscience staff. Staff spread over the rest of the New Zealand regions for the core group range from 4 percent in Otago and Southland to 12 percent in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty.

Graph, Regional bioscience activity, core group organisations, 2009.

Bioscience commercialisation

Organisations across all three groups (core, active, and research) signalled an intention to increase the range of commercial outputs from their bioscience activity. Seventy-eight core organisations expect to introduce one or more new product to market in the next two years. This compares with 57 organisations that introduced new products on the market in the last two years. Of the active organisations, 57 intend introducing new products to market in the next two years, compared with 48 in the last two years. Following this trend for increasing output, 21 research organisations expect to introduce new products to market in the next two years, compared with 18 in the previous two years.

Constraints to bioscience research and development, and commercialisation

Similar constraints affected bioscience organisations in both their R&D and commercialisation activities. The most frequently reported constraint across all three groups (core, active, and research) was access to capital. In the core group, 24 percent reported this as a constraint to R&D, whilst 19 percent reported it as a constraint to commercialisation. In the active group, 19 percent reported access to capital was a constraint to R&D, while 13 percent thought it was a constraint to commercialisation. In both the core and active groups the next most reported constraint to commercialisation was regulations, at 13 and 7 percent respectively. The remainder of the constraints for commercialisation in the research group were all reported at low levels.

Bioscience partnerships and alliances

Most bioscience partnerships and alliances are worth $5 million or less and are with other New Zealand organisations. The most frequently reported purpose for New Zealand partnerships and alliances in the core group was for product or process development. For active and research organisations the most frequently reported purpose was for research, followed by product or process development.

Sixty-three core organisations and 54 active organisations have overseas partnerships or alliances worth $5 million or less.

Graph, Bioscience partnerships and alliances by value, 2009.

Bioscience intellectual property

The Bioscience Survey collects a greater amount of information than previously collected about patents applied for and granted to bioscience organisations in New Zealand. Information on the location of patents is also collected.

Bioscience research organisations in New Zealand had the greatest number of bioscience patents granted, which includes full-specification patents, patent co-operation treaties (PCTs) and plant breeder rights (PBRs) applications. The 305 patents granted in the last two years were spread over 27 research firms. In contrast, 21 active organisations had 185 patents granted in the last two years, while 42 core organisations had 113 patents granted.

Of the full-specification patents granted, 43 percent were granted within New Zealand. Of the PBRs granted to the active group, 80 percent were granted in New Zealand, compared with 50 percent granted for the research group.

Bioscience income, exports, and expenditure

In order to understand the contribution bioscience directly makes to the New Zealand economy, financial data for bioscience organisations was collected. Previous biotechnology surveys collected financial information directly from respondents. However, due to the variability in their data and understanding of the biotechnology definition, financial information is no longer directly collected from respondents. Instead, the survey collects percentage values of income, exports, and expenditure attributable to bioscience. This is combined with administrative data to produce more consistent and reliable information. This is collected for the core organisations only, as financial and headcount information is harder to separate from non-bioscience related activities for organisations in the active and research groups.

Total income from core bioscience organisations was $605 million. Of this, $318 million was from exports of bioscience goods or services. Core bioscience organisations total expenditure was $484 million.

The economic impact of bioscience exceeds the contribution of just the core bioscience organisations. It is useful to also consider the indirect contribution of organisations using biosciences. The 159 active and research organisations had a combined income of just over $15 billion, and expenditure of nearly $13 billion in the last financial year, of which an unknown proportion can be attributed to bioscience activities.

Bioscience staff and overseas recruitment of staff

Thirty core bioscience organisations attempted to recruit staff from overseas in the previous two years. Of those, 70 percent were successful. The majority of staff successfully recruited were from the United States, followed by Europe.

Of the 30 percent of core organisations that were unsuccessful in recruiting staff from overseas, the most common reason given was an inability to match overseas salary levels. The remaining reasons for unsuccessful recruitment were all reported at 17 percent.

For technical information contact:
Meighan Ragg
Wellington 04 931 4600


Next release ...

Bioscience Survey: 2011 will be released in 2012.

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