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Teamwork needed for Massachusetts to lead in biotech industry, report says

The Massachusetts biotech industry, which has grown at 10 percent a year over the last five years, has an extraordinary advantage over rival states seeking biotech companies because of the strengths of its research universities, hospitals and three decades of development of the industry. But a report, "MassBiotech 2010," warned last week that an opportunity to create 150,000 new jobs in the state over the next eight years could be lost unless there is greater collaboration among state and local governments, industry and academia.

Sponsored by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council and the Boston Consulting Group, the report said the biotech industry in Massachusetts had 30,000 jobs in 2001, one out of every eight biotech jobs in the U.S. The gain of 12,000 jobs in the Bay State represents half the state's net growth in industrial jobs.

Similar growth is needed over the next few years to generate revenue for the state. David Matheson of Boston Consulting Group noted that job creation is the only way to generate revenue for Massachusetts without raising taxes.

The potential for biotech to aid the state's economic woes is enormous, but immediate action is required or the opportunity could be lost, the report said.

The elements needed for significant growth include:
The governor and other leaders need to champion the industry, lobbying for federal support and facilitating collaborations among the entire life sciences cluster.

The business climate must be improved to ensure a streamlined framework for innovation and regulation. Some 27 state and local agencies have to approve a new biotech building. Massachusetts firms that have located manufacturing plants outside the state report they felt more welcomed elsewhere.

Massachusetts must keep pace with the states, such as California and North Carolina, that have implemented various ways to attract the industry.

The state must invest in strong science education from kindergarten through post-graduate studies.

If the state succeeds in wooing more biotech, by 2010, the increase in total jobs due to biotech expansion could range from 19,500 jobs to 148,000 jobs in the state. One-third of those jobs would be in biotech and two-thirds would be in other fields, generated by the multiplier effect of biotech's economic expansion, the Boston Consulting Group said.

Annual personal income taxes, now at $300 million with 30,000 jobs, would increase to about $350 million for 36,500 jobs for the low range, or to as much as $750 million if there were 78,000 biotech jobs in the state.

"This report," said MIT President Charles M. Vest, "is a wake-up call that we, as a community, must bring our intellectual, business and civic talents together to make the Boston area the hub of the next-generation biotechnology industry."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 18, 2002.

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