The Seminar on Biotechnology in Europe and Latin America (SOBELA) took place in Brussels, 27-29 April 1987. Unlike many recent meetings in biotechnology this was not an opportunity to display the latest developments, but more importantly a chance to exchange information and prepare commercial agreements based on the transfer of skills and technology in the biosciences.
The meeting opened with important statements of interest and goodwill by key scientific and political figures from Europe and Latin America. Later, businessmen and scientists from the two sides of the Atlantic described the infrastructures that support biotechnology activities in their respective regions. It emerged that there was real scope for two way exchange of skills, materials and equipment.
The Commission of the European Communities, CEC, and various multinational groupings in Latin America were able to compare and contrast the effectiveness of their enabling programmes. In both areas regulation and legislation raise barriers to the free exchange of skills and commodities resulting from biotechnology. In both areas collaborative ventures are breaking down such barriers, albeit too slowly. Both areas perceive the greatest competitive challenges to their biotechnology industries to come from the USA and Japan.
Since April 1987 the stock market has become a less than safe investment and the US dollar is no longer a safe alternative to gold. These developments will have long lasting effects on the ease of raising capital and the success of exported products from Latin America. More pressure will be applied to Latin American governments to provide the means to enable the development of an internationally competitive industry. European biotechnology has moved rapidly from the position described in ‘Industrial Biotechnology in Europe’, edited by Duncan Davies, (CEPS, CEE, 1986) in which Europe was perceived to be failing to compete. In the past year there has been a flurry of supportive and concertation measures at both national and Community levels.