PARIS ¿ Following up the findings of the report it commissioned earlier this year on the French biotechnology industry, France Biotech, the industry association, and Objectif 2010, a business group devoted to promoting innovative enterprises, are urging the French government to introduce new tax incentives for the biotechnology sector in the finance bill for fiscal 2002.

Published in July, the report by two university economists concluded that the French industry increasingly was lagging behind its counterparts in the United Kingdom and Germany, not to mention the United States, and advocated more favorable tax treatment for innovative industries. The two organizations want EUR4 billion (US$3.6 billion) to be injected into the industry over three years through a combination of tax concessions, direct funding and loan guarantees.

Specifically, France Biotech and Objectif 2010 call for three immediate measures to be incorporated in the 2002 finance bill:

¿ Bank loans totaling EUR600 million to be made available to the industry in 2002 to finance acquisitions and research and development activities. A particular objective of these loans would be to enable French firms to acquire foreign companies that already have an established technological lead and thus facilitate their growth to the critical mass necessary for their development and autonomy.

¿ Creation of a seed capital fund of EUR100 million to stimulate the creation of start-ups.

¿ An increase in the resources of public scientific and medical research establishments to encourage technology transfer to the private sector.

Other measures sought by the two organizations include a substantial increase in the funding provided by the National Research Promotion Agency to the biotechnology industry; the creation of biotechnology-oriented investment funds within the framework of the existing regime of innovation-oriented mutual funds, to channel a larger proportion of venture capital into the sector; a doubling of the tax relief ceiling for these funds; and the creation of one-man venture capital funds to stimulate investment by business angels in high-risk start-ups.

Discussions are under way between France Biotech and Finance Ministry officials. An industry association official told BioWorld International, ¿We have high hopes of something significant coming out of them.¿