• Gunter Festel FESTEL CAPITAL and ETH Zurich
  • Philipp Rittershaus



Industrial biotechnology, bioeconomy, technology transfer, new ventures, academic spin-offs


Industrial biotechnology is the commercial application of biotechnology using cells or components of cells, like enzymes, for industrial production processes including consumer goods, bioenergy and biomaterials. In the last years this area has gone through a fast technological development resulting in a high number of basic technologies based on research efforts at universities and research institutions. But a technology transfer gap exists between basic research and the commercialisation of the results. This gap can be closed by academic spin-offs which manage the technology transfer from universities and research institutions to industrial companies. After the spin-off process, the technology is further developed within the new venture normally using additional resources from external investors. As soon as the technology reaches a certain grade of maturity, the spin-offs can co-operate with an established company and work for them as a service provider or be acquired. The chosen approach of technology transfer depends on the type of company. Whereas multinational enterprises (MNEs) are very active in making new technologies available both by acquiring spin-offs or engaging them as service providers, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are focused on partnering with spin-offs, due to limited financial and management resources.


Festel, G. (2011) Drivers and barriers for industrial biotechnology. International Sugar Journal 113(1345): 19-23.

Bower, J.D. (2003) Business Model Fashion and the Academic Spinout Firm. R&D Management 33(2): 97-106.

Franklin, S., Wright, M. and Lockett, A. (2001) Academic and surrogate entrepreneurs in university spin-out companies. Journal of Technology Transfer 26(1/2): 127-141.

Samson, K.J. and Gurdon, M.A. (1993) University Scientists as Entrepreneurs: A Special Case of Technology Transfer and High Technology Venturing. Technovation 13(2): 63-71.

Di Gregorio, D. and Shane, S. (2003) Why do some universities generate more start-ups than others? Research Policy 32(2): 209-227.

Markman, G., Phan, P., Balkin, D. and Giannodis, P. (2005) Entrepreneurship and university-based technology transfer. Journal of Business Venturing 20(2): 241-63.

Wright, M., Vohora, A. and Lockett, A. (2004) The formation of high tech university spinout companies: The role of joint ventures and venture capital investors. Journal of Technology Transfer 29(3/4): 287-310.

Lerner, J. (2005) The University and the Start-up: Lessons from the Past Two Dec-ades. Journal of Technology Transfer 30(1-2): 49-56.

Shane, S. (2002) Selling university technology: Patterns from MIT. Management Science 48(1): 122-138.

Friedman, J. and Silberman, J. (2003) University technology transfer: Do incentives, management, and location matter? Journal of Technology Transfer 28(1): 17-30.

Powers, J.B. and Mc Dougall, P.P. (2005) Universities start-up formation and tech-nology licensing with firms that go public: A resource-based view of academic entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing 20(3): 291-311.

Heirman, A. and Clarysse, B. (2004) How and why do research-based start-ups differ at founding? A resource- based configurational perspective. Journal of Technology Transfer 29(3-4): 247-268.

Stam, E., Suddle, K., Hessels, J. and Stel, A. (2009) High-growth entrepreneurs, public policies and economic growth. International Studies in Entrepreneurship 22(1): 91-110.

Coons, R. (2010) Industrial Biotechnology. Chemical Week 172(27): 22-26.

EuropaBio (2003) White Biotechnology: Gateway to a More Sustainable Future. Brussels: EuropaBio.

SusChem (2005) Industrial or White Biotechnology. Brussels: EuropaBio.

Hermann, B.G., Blok, K. and Patel, M.K. (2007) Producing Bio-Based Bulk Chemicals Using Industrial Biotechnology Saves Energy and Combats Climate Change. Environmental Science & Technology 41(22): 7915-7921.

Festel, G. (2010) Industrial biotechnology: Market size, company types, business models, and growth strategies. Industrial Biotechnology 6(2): 88-94.

Nieuwenhuizen, P. and Lyon, D. (2010) Anticipating opportunities in industrial biotechnology: Sizing the market and growth szenarios. Journal of Commercial Biotechnology 17(2): 159-164.

Joint Research Center (JRC) (2007) Consequences, Opportunities and Challenges of Modern Biotechnology for Europe. Luxembourg: European Communities.

United States International Trade Commission (USITC) (2008) Industrial Biotechnology - Development and Adoption by the U.S. Chemical and Biofuel Industries, Investigation No. 332-481, USITC Publication 4020, Washington: USITC.

Kircher, M. (2011) Industrial biotechnology becomes a key competitive factor. Journal of Business Chemistry 8(1): 3-4.

Festel,, G., Knöll, J. and Götz, H. (2004) Industrial Biotech – Influencing Production, Chemistry & Industry, 7(5): 21-22.

Festel, G., Detzel, C. and Maas, R. (2011) Industrial biotechnology – Markets and industry structure, Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, 18(1): 10-20.

OECD (2011) Future Prospects for Industrial Biotechnology. Paris: OECD Publishing.