AusBiotech has released the annual Biotechnology Industry Survey – which this year showed that while Australia’s strength in life sciences remains in a growth trajectory, there is a worrying fall in business sentiment across the sector with uncertainty over the fate of the R&D Tax Incentive (RDTI).
The key findings of the ninth annual Survey, supported by Grant Thornton, revealed business sentiment measures show a cooling of industry confidence in the face of an uncertain political environment and an ongoing quest of the Government to limit the RDTI. The industry’s frustration on the continued threat to the RDTI was ‘loud and clear’. Both the lack of vision for industry growth levers, and plans to cut support to the sector, has shown a disillusionment across the industry; the likes of which we have never seen before.
Only 14 per cent described the Australian operating environment as ‘conducive to growing a biotech business’ - down from 37 per cent the year before. This is the worst result this decade and points to a challenging period ahead. Twenty-six per cent said the environment ‘works against growing a biotech business’, up from 16 per cent in 2018.
While industry metrics are still sound and growth expected, the survey revealed a ‘wait and see’ approach from companies in regard to employment – with a sharp increase in the plan to hold staff levels steady (24% to 47%) and a decrease in the intention to hire (73% to 51%). The characterisation of the past year saw a significant drop in those that experienced an excellent year (from 29% to 19%).
Alongside business sentiment and policy concerns, the Survey found:
- There is a prevailing view that support for tech transfer and commercialisation diminishes as research leaves public institutions on the commercialisation pathway.
- Poor metrics, combined with a lack of understanding of the skills and investment needed for the industry’s future, has conspired to drive poor policy decisions.
- Regenerative medicine is lighting up the horizon, with Australia preparing for a regenerative medicine revolution. This relatively new science field is expected to disrupt the health treatments available to patients world-wide.
- Medicinal cannabis has burst onto the scene. The global sentiment towards medicinal cannabis is changing, and Australian biotechnology companies are claiming the space to demonstrate the medicinal value for patients.
The annual AusBiotech Industry Position Survey gathers insights, perspectives and statistics from biotech industry leaders. It builds metrics on the biotechnology industry’s significance, enabling AusBiotech to craft strong statements around current issues and trends and guide its advocacy efforts in the year ahead. The 2019 Survey can be accessed here.