California’s Industrial Biotechnology Workforce: Creating Jobs and Leading Innovation

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – September 21, 2010 – A recent survey of California’s new industrial biotechnology sector shows that this state is once again the hub of innovation for an emerging industry.

California’s industrial biotechnology industry is creating new jobs for skilled workers and promises to benefit the world through new and sustainable fuel sources, feedstock, enzymes and green industrial chemicals. In just a few short years, the sector has experienced record-setting growth in California, according to a survey commissioned by BayBio and BIOCOM, the leading biotechnology industry trade groups in the state.

With the proper investment in the workforce, and cooperation from the state government, the survey shows that the sector, like the life sciences industry before it, is poised to be a major employer and growing source of innovation in California for years to come.

It is the mission of BayBio and BIOCOM to guide the proper workforce training and work with legislators to help create a regulatory environment that is conducive to the continued growth and success of the sector. The trade groups commissioned the first-ever statewide Industrial Biotechnology Workforce Survey to get a snapshot of the sector’s growth over the past few years, and an analysis of how industry might better work with academia and industry to ensure California remains a global leader in the space.

BayBio and BIOCOM in conjunction with Radford, a key provider in market intelligence for the life sciences and technology industries, conducted the survey in August. Also partnering with the agencies was the CSUPERB program of the California State University system and the EWD Biotechnology Initiative of the California Community Colleges.

“California is well poised to become the hub for industrial biotechnology, just as it is the world’s leader in the life sciences,” said Joe Panetta, President and CEO of BIOCOM, the largest regional life science trade association in the world.  “Human capital will be a key factor in successfully growing this emerging industry and Radford’s demand-driven employment analysis is just what we need to proactively build our workforce and catalyze innovation in this field.”

According to the California Industrial Biotechnology Workforce Survey, the sector grew 19 percent between 2009 and 2010. And over the past five years, this life-changing sector grew 50 percent. Of the companies surveyed, 81 percent have their headquarters in California and 91 percent have their research and development facilities in the state. Only half of the respondents locate their pilot scale facilities in California, and an even smaller percent build their commercial scale plants in the state, citing the cost of doing business and the regulatory environment.

As for jobs, the survey showed that it is no coincidence that the state that is home to the majority of the world’s life sciences has now sprouted the industrial biotechnology sector. Hiring for industrial biotechnology has focused on chemists, molecular and cell biologists, fermentation specialists and chemical engineers, according to the survey. And in the future, the industry will be in need of workers with hands-on, commercial-scale experience in chemical processing, the survey showed.

“The California Industrial Biotechnology Workforce Survey provides valuable insight into the dynamics and hiring trends of the rapidly expanding field of industrial biotechnology in California,” said Gail Maderis, CEO of BayBio, the Northern California biotechnology industry trade association. “It’s important for California’s policy makers and educational institutions to be aware of the challenges and opportunities facing these emerging companies, to more effectively bring these strategic, environmentally advantageous products to market and bolster the strength of California’s biotechnology industry.”