The Top Countries for Biotech Firms and Research

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The United States ranks first in the number of biotech firms, PCT patent applications, and biomedical treatment approvals, with Spain coming second, according to the 2015 OECD report on biotechnology statistics. According to the report, the U.S. has 11,367 biotech firms followed by 2,831 in Spain and 1,950 in France.

They are followed by Korea, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Belgium rounding out the Top 10. Small biotech firms are the rule rather than the exception, with 72 percent of the biotechnology firms in the United States having 50 or fewer employees.

Ranking by Total Biotechnology R&D Expenditures

The number of firms is one way to rank biotech by country, while expenditures in research and development are another. The United States outspends its nearest competitor, France, by eight to one, at almost $27 billion to a little over $3 billion in 2012. The other big spenders are Switzerland, Korea, Japan, Germany, and Denmark at all over one billion dollars.

The Changing Landscape for Research and Development

However, research and development budgets have felt the squeeze in the European Union, Japan, and the United States since 2008, with only 1.6 percent annual growth rate on average in 2008 through 2012. Meanwhile, China continues to boost its spending on R&D in general, doubling it between 2008 and 2012.

As a result, it's expected that China will be the leading spender in R&D by 2019, according to OECD. The 2012 report found that public finances were still tight in many countries, so they weren't able to boost R&D budgets with public funding as was done at the height of the economic crisis in 2008-2010.

According to the 2010 OECD report on science and technology, however, it appears the industry picture has looked better in later years for several non-OECD countries, including Singapore, Brazil, China, India and South Africa (OECD, 2010).

Although Japan is ranked second for a number of criteria by OECD, it doesn't rank in the top 5 at all according to other sources and criteria. In August 2010, Scientific Amercian ranked the top 5 biotech countries in a "Worldview Scorecard" as being USA, Singapore, Canada, Sweden, and Denmark.

Those rankings were compiled using the following criteria: IP and ability to protect it, intensity, being defined as spending on R&D, availability of venture capital and support, availability of expert manpower and the overall country's ranking in terms of entrepreneurship and other foundations. Countries doing well are those with strong incentives for technology development and a range of options for obtaining research funding.

Beyond Borders: Global Biotechnology Report 2010, by Ernst and Young, indicates that China and India rank as the top two countries for increasing gross domestic product (GDP) during what was referred to as the Global Recession of the past 2 years. 

The stats suggest that China will soon become the third largest pharmaceutical market after the USA and Japan, and, being a popular (inexpensive) spot for outsourcing, will do well in coming years. India also benefitted from downsizing and cost-cutting in other nations during the recession, due to its highly skilled workforce and lower manufacturing and research costs.