BRUSSELS, Belgium ¿ Although venture capital is no longer difficult to find for biotechnology investment in Europe, seed capital remains scarce, said the second conference of the Biotechnology and Finance Forum, which took place in Lyon, France, at the end of March.

In another attempt to forge closer links between European biotechnologists and European investors, and to create ¿bio-valleys in Europe,¿ the meeting ¿ which was the sequel to the forum¿s launch conference in Brussels in May 1998 ¿ brought together 200 leading figures from the research, finance, industry and policy-making sectors in Europe to discuss the development of better tools and trade advice for building biotechnology firms.

Stanislaw Yassukovic, the chairman of Easdaq (the European equivalent of Nasdaq in the U.S.), stressed the need for ¿transparency and mutual understanding between early stage investors and entrepreneurs.¿

The forum is a joint initiative, dating back to 1997, taken by the European Association of Securities Dealers and the Commission of the European Union in an attempt to remedy the severe deficit ¿ highlighted in report after report for the last ten years ¿ of seed capital and other start-up and development finance for biotechnology in Europe.

Yassukovic said there is still an urgent need to encourage the creation and development of young innovative companies, and to create that elusive virtuous circle stimulating scientists, entrepreneurs and investors. The focus at the meeting was on developing more entrepreneurial and management skills among scientists, including making them aware of the importance of intellectual property rights, and giving them a better sense of timing and valuation in setting up company flotations.

¿It is essential to link the ability to discover to the ability to produce,¿ Yassukovic said. The concrete suggestions from the forum included providing young entrepreneurs with business planning training, and creating a smoother path from seed capital to flotation ¿ from business creation to business development.

The forum claims that in its short existence, it has managed to promote the development of smaller biotechnology firms in Europe

There was some real prospect of synergy between science, industry, investors and policy-makers through the upcoming fifth framework program for research and development that the European Union is just launching, the forum concluded.