BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union (EU) developed another aid program for the biotechnology sector, involving workshops to assist scientists in creating biotechnology companies.

The initiative, which gives concrete expression to some of the good intentions recently formulated by the European Commission (EC) at its conference on financing biotechnology, will consist of a series of workshops held across Europe to enable entrepreneurs to prepare “viable business plans.“

Known as “Biobiz“ and run by Amersham Pharmacia Biotech Ltd., of Uppsala, Sweden, the program will offer scientists an intensive three-day training workshop, including hands-on experience with a dedicated software package, so they understand the business planning required for starting a company.

The aim is to help scientists who want to exploit their discoveries, but who are faced with what the EC calls an impossible choice between taking time out to follow an MBA or other course of business study or committing themselves to purchasing expensive advice from consultants.

“Biobiz has been developed to meet the specific business planning needs of biotechnology entrepreneurs,“ said Michel Lepers, Amersham Pharmacia Biotech's program manager. He said the workshop should let them put business plans together that will attract real interest from venture capitalists. The courses will be run in the U.K., Germany, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain between late-September and mid-November this year. The EC's biotechnology program will provide a subsidy of ECU1,000 to EU nationals who want to attend a training course. The full cost is ECU2,200.

Individuals from peripheral or high-employment regions of Europe may be entitled to an additional subsidy. - Peter O'Donnell