The Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House today released a national Bioeconomy Blueprint that it says will harness biological research to address national priorities. The plan outlines actions to be undertaken by federal agencies. No mention is made of new legislation, although the administration’s latest budget submission identified as a priority to “support research to establish the foundations for a 21st century bioeconomy.”
The plan cites the growing economic impact of biological research in the U.S., with $76 billion in revenues from genetically modified crops in 2010, as well as another $100 billion from industrial biotechnology that covers genetically engineered fuels, materials, chemicals, and industrial enzymes, also in 2010.
The document identifies three basic technologies driving innovations in the field: genetic engineering, DNA sequencing, and automated high-throughput manipulations of biomolecules. The blueprint also highlights emerging technologies with potential for making an economic impact that include synthetic biology, proteomics (manipulation of proteins in cells), and bioinformatics.
The plan indicates the administration will give priority to multidisciplinary efforts to enable biological research at the boundaries of fields such as physics, chemistry, engineering, computer sciences, and mathematics. It also calls for new types of funding mechanisms, such as prizes and challenges, that encourage higher risk and reward research.
The blueprint says the administration wants more efforts that speed the transition of discoveries from lab to market, including more efforts to encourage entrepreneurship in university research programs, as well as greater government purchases of bio-based products from American crops.
The document asks agencies to reduce regulatory barriers, increase the speed and predictability of regulatory processes, while still protecting human and environmental health. It calls on agencies to accelerate application review times and, when possible, run in parallel some reviews that traditionally run sequentially.
The plan cites the need to better align the acadmic training of students with workforce needs in science- and technology-based businesses. Agencies are asked to take steps beyond support for education, such as support for employer/educator partnerships, to meet this goal.
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