European Federation of Biotechnology Regional Branch Office in Aarhus

Publiceret April 2003

Increased public and educational awareness of biotechnology in Europe will be important in the future, allowing informed choices to be made both by the public and the scientists. To aid in this process a European-wide network was established 25 years ago. During the last two years a reorganisation has been conducted within European Federation of Biotechnology, the most recent initiative has been the establishment of Regional Branch Offices. These offices will by instrumental in reaching all parts of Europe.

In the past two years European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) has carried out a process of reorganisation and renewal, a process which previously has been described in BioZoom by the President of EFB, Professor Børge Diderichsen. A rapid and continued expansion of activities within EFB has resulted from this endeavour. Additionally the number of new members, both individual and institutional, has increased. In the past year the number of individual members has increased by 82 % (from 1655 in April 2002 to 3090 in April 2003) and the increase in institutional members has been 28 % (from 139 in April 2002 to 179 in April 2003).

The success of EFB has placed increasing demands on the central EFB Office & Congress Service (OCS) at DECHEMA in Frankfurt and on some active EFB members. To remedy the increased demand on OCS and strengthen EFB at a regional level, the EFB Executive Board (ExBo) decided to call for applications from those interested in establishing Regional Branch Offices (RBO).

Strong support from the Municipality of Aarhus, the County of Aarhus and the University of Aarhus, made it possible for BioMedico Forum and Department of Molecular Biology  at Aarhus University to apply to EFB to host an EFB RBO.

The unique constellation involving Department of Molecular Biology and BioMedico Forum brought together the solid scientific basis from the University with the regional networking association BioMedico Forum which was founded in April 2001. The primary focus of BioMedico Forum has been on establishing and building a network between local companies, entrepreneurs, science parks, universities, hospitals and other educational institutions to aid the building of competence and promotion of the region's biotech- and BioMedico activities.

On this basis the EFB ExBo decided to place an EFB RBO in Aarhus. In addition to the EFB Aarhus RBO, 8 RBO's were formed with a good coverage throughout Europe (see illustration).

The general tasks of the various RBO's have been defined to include:

  • Representation to national government and regional authorities
  • Coordination of regional and selected projects
  • Coordination of selected EC (and other) applications
  • Various contacts (ministries, universities, organisations, media)
  • Arrange regional meetings, workshops, conferences etc
  • Arrange meetings and workshops in the region for EFB Sections and Task Groups
  • Regional membership campaigns
  • Distribute info about EFB and EFB events in the region
  • Ensure EFB presence at relevant events in region
  • Establish data base on institutions and contacts in the region
  • Disseminate info about EU (and other) funding opportunities in the region
  • Facilitate EFB media contacts in the region
  • Contribute to EFB "Ask the scientist" and other regionally based contributions to Task Group on Public Perceptions of Biotechnology
  • Deliver regional information and data for EFB website, data base, OCS and ExBo.

Although the RBOs will work closely together on the various tasks at hand, each RBO has declared interest in cooperating with defined EFB Sections and Task Groups on a European-wide scale and each will be responsible for a defined region.

The EFB Aarhus RBO will, in addition to serving Denmark as a region, also be conducting activities in Sweden, since at present an EFB RBO has not been established here.

Due to the a strong scientific position at the University within the field of functional genomics and the general interest in innovation both within BioMedico Forum and the University, the EFB Aarhus RBO expressed particular interest to collaborate with the EFB Section on Applied Functional Genomics and the EFB Task Group on Innovation.

The EFB Section on Applied Functional Genomics was founded during the First European Symposium on Applied Functional Genome Research in Brussels, November 26-27, 1998.

The activities of the Section include organisation of meetings, workshops, round tables, brain-storming sessions and any other activities to ensure that expertise in the field of Applied Genome Research is optimised and available to support all facets of Biotechnology in Europe (Health, Agro-food, Environment, Chemicals). The Section Chairman is Professor Marco R. Soria from Magna Graecia University School of Medicine, Catanzaro, Italy

The EFB Task group on Innovation was established based on the recognised key importance of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology transfer in capitalising on the diverse and important technological and knowledge-based advances that have recently been witnessed in biotechnology. The Task Group Chairman is Professor Charles F. A. Bryce from Napier University, Edinburgh, UK.

The present list of involvements of the EFB Aarhus RBO also includes a recent initiative within EFB, namely the European Action on Global Life Sciences (EAGLES).
The greatest humanitarian challenges for the life sciences lie in the problems of illness, starvation and environmental degradation that are faced by hundreds of millions of people in many parts of the world. These people suffer from poor health and poor nutrition while their environment is being destroyed at an alarming rate. The global problems of food, health and environmental protection are intrinsically connected with each other, and life scientists have an obvious responsibility to address them. Many biologists believe that European life sciences could make a much greater contribution to solving these problems. The key question is how can this be done, and what can those who are interested in this problem do to help? The EAGLES Consortium, organised by the European Federation of Biotechnology, is developing new ways of helping to address these questions. The key proposal is that Europe should listen to distinguished life scientists from the Developing Countries. The Coordinator and Co-Vice Chairman is Professor David McConnell, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.

In the short time the EFB Aarhus RBO has been in operation the office has been mainly responsible for one EU FP6 application in collaboration with the EFB Task Group on Innovation. The overall objective will be to strengthen and broaden the European competitive advantage, realising the need for breaking down barriers and providing a new forum for building competences; thus attacking the economic and technological intelligence, a vital component of competitive research and innovation strategies. This will be achieved by: (i) Dissemination and promotion of key elements in areas such as technology transfer, entrepreneurship, innovation, strategic management, IPR, public communication and ethicsin the life sciences and biotechnology. (ii) Surveying best practice in technology transfer, entrepreneurship, innovation, strategic management, IPR, public communication and ethics. (iii) Establishing a Training Framework to support economic and technological intelligence. (iv) Promoting exchange of personnel and students between SMEs and academia.

In addition the EFB Aarhus RBO is involved in an EU FP6 application to support the initial setting up of the activities, which will lead to the full blooming of the activities within EAGLES.

For more information on the activities of  European Federation of Biotechnology, please consult the homepage www.efbweb.org. Information regarding BioMedico forum and Department of Molecular Biology can be obtained from www.biomedicofourm.dk and www.mb.au.dk.