Spanish biotechnology sector breaks record figures for six years in a row, according to AseBio 2021 Report

  • The economic impact of the sector is growing, accounting for 0.9% of national GDP.
  • The industry attracts 180 million euros of private investment, 20% more than in 2020.
  • Productivity per employee is three times the national average and wages per employee almost double
  • Biotechnology is the industry with the highest intensity of investment in R&D and in the hiring of researchers.
  • Biotech companies increase their scientific production by 50%. 
Ana Polanco

The Spanish Bioindustry Association (AseBio) published its AseBio 2021 Report on Thursday entitled "Towards resilient, sustainable growth" (Hacia un crecimiento sostenible y resiliente), which compiles all the information on Spanish biotechnology and did so by taking a journey through 13 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on which biotechnology has a direct impact, with the participation of 12 of its members. The event, which was held in collaboration with Merck, took place at ICEX Spain Export and Investment in Madrid.

"The progress and achievement of these objectives depends on public-private support and investment in the biotechnology sector. This sector has proven to be up to the proposed challenges, as an example of overcoming, giving a rapid response to the biggest health, economic and social crisis in modern history," said the ICEX in the welcoming remarks. "There is a before and after 2020 in the general perception of biotechnology, where it has been proven first-hand that the results of science are tangible, immediate and necessary," they added.

Generating economic growth

The AseBio 2021 Report shows the versatility and transformative power of the biotechnology industry. More specifically, the report shows how the sector's economic impact on GDP and employment has grown once again. The activity of biotech companies has generated more than €10.3 billion in income, which represents 0.9% of the Spanish GDP and a turnover of more than €12 billion. In addition, they created 121,755 jobs, 0.7% of total employment nationwide, said Ana Polanco, president of AseBio. It is worth noting that the salary per employee in biotech companies is almost double the national average and their productivity is three times higher.

Increasing private investment

The general data show the growth and consolidation of the sector and the commitment of national and international investors is a primary indicator. Private investment in biotechnology companies has increased by 20%, exceeding €183 million in 41 transactions carried out in 2021.

R&D investment leaders

Biotechnology companies invested almost €900 million in R&D in 2020, 6% of total national investment. These figures reflect a slight decline in the upward trend of recent years due to the global economic slowdown caused by the healthcare emergency. Even so, biotechnology is consolidating its position as the leading industrial sector in terms of R&D investment intensity.

Intensive in researcher recruitment and excellent science 

Biotechnology is the sector with the highest participation of researchers and the leader in female researchers. The number of students enrolled in university studies in biotechnology in the last period exceeded 8,700 students, 60% of whom were women. In addition, it continues to be one of the university degrees with the highest cut-off marks.

Biotechnology companies are the industry with the highest percentage share of researchers over the total number of employees, with 13.23%. The work of these researchers has consolidated Spain as the eighth world leader in scientific production, with AseBio's member companies increasing their efforts in scientific production by almost 50%. 

Moreover, companies stand out for the high presence of women in their R&D staff (59%). In addition, there is a 6% increase in the number of women in management teams, reaching 30.2%. This figure is well above the IBEX-35 companies' 23.2%. 

More companies, partnerships and international presence

Spain has seen another year of growth in the number of biotechnology companies. Two decades ago, there were around 50 so-called 'biotech' companies; today, there are 862 (which are included in the almost 4,000 companies that carry out biotech activities), with Catalonia leading the regional breakdown, closely followed by Madrid and Andalusia. 

The biotech sector works on a collaborative basis, seeking synergies to innovate and provide solutions that drive progress in our society. As Isabel Sánchez-Magro, Medical Director of Merck in Spain, stated, "the pandemic has highlighted the importance of forging alliances and at Merck, in line with SDG 17, we promote them to implement research, prevention and disease treatment programmes in a way that addresses the health challenges of our society. We do this together with institutions, scientific societies, patient associations, healthcare professionals because we know that by joining forces we can advance faster and go further.” 

AseBio's partners, for example, have closed 220 partnerships in 2021, half of which are with international organisations, and have increased their global presence by 20% in 2021. 

More products on the market

Another sign of the sector's growth is that companies are increasing their product and service launches to the market by 20%, many of them related to Covid-19.

"All these achievements are the result of a collaborative way of working. This close collaboration between all the stakeholders in the biotechnology sector is what made possible in 2021 and also in this 2022 this wave of innovations that bring the solutions that society demands from us. Today we can mark a new beginning with a renewed vision towards a more sustainable and resilient future," concluded Polanco. 

The strategic biotechnology sector on the recovery agenda

The AseBio 2021 Report reflects the high response capacity and economic impact of the sector, which means that it has been considered as one of the strategic sectors of the recovery, being included in the Spain 2050 Programme, in the PERTE Vanguard Health and in the PERTE Agroalimentary as a sector with innovation capacity.


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Agathe Cortes

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Who we are 

AseBio brings together more than 290 entities and represents the Spanish biotechnology sector as a whole. Its mission is to lead the transformation of the country, positioning science, innovation and especially biotechnology as an engine of economic growth and social welfare. Its members include companies, associations, foundations, universities, technology and research centres that carry out their activities directly or indirectly related to biotechnology in Spain.