India's Biotech Startups
India's Biotech Startups: Engineering Solutions for a Sustainable Future

In 2018, the world was captivated by the passionate pleas of young climate activist Greta Thunberg, who brought global attention to the urgent need for action against climate change. However, while many activists continue to raise awareness about the issue, India has taken a different approach. Instead of just discussing the problem, the country has been working on engineering solutions to combat climate change through biotechnology. The remarkable part is that India’s biotech startup ecosystem has experienced exponential growth, expanding from 50 startups to a staggering 5,300 in just nine years.

Over the past century, human impact on the biosphere has resulted in climate change, causing a rise in Earth’s average temperature. This, in turn, has had widespread effects on various aspects of our global economy. The consequences of climate change are evident in food security, human health, biodiversity loss, and rising sea levels, all of which contribute to decreased productivity and economic instability.

Recognizing the limitations of current economic models that heavily rely on fossil fuels, India has embraced the concept of a “Bioeconomy” as a sustainable solution. Bioeconomy is a financial system that sustainably utilizes renewable resources to produce goods and services. It involves the conversion of biological resources into usable products through processes such as biotechnology, bioengineering, and biorefining.

India’s Bioeconomy has already surpassed the $80 billion mark in 2021, representing approximately 2.6% of the country’s total GDP. The nation has set ambitious targets for itself, aiming to reach $150 billion by 2025 and $300 billion by 2030. India is focusing on five major sectors within the Bioeconomy framework to achieve these goals.

  1. Bio Pharmaceuticals (Pharma) – BioPharma accounts for the largest share of India’s Bioeconomy, comprising 49% of the sector. This segment encompasses the development of therapeutics (26%), vaccines (22%), and diagnostics (52%). According to Bruegel, India has emerged as the second-largest vaccine producer globally, second only to the European Union. Emerging players include Bionic Hope, Sohum Innovation, Alfa Corpuscles, and AlgoSurg Inc., among many more.
  2. Bio Agriculture (Agri) – This sector includes BT Cotton, pesticides, and marine and animal biotechnology. BT Cotton, a genetically modified pest-resistant variety, is crucial in the textile and apparel industry. Emerging players include Mallipathra Nutraceutical, Ai-Genix International, and Clensta International, among many more.
  3. Bio Industrial – This segment is further divided into two verticals: biofuels and bioenzymes. The market for biofuels has gained momentum as the Indian government promotes the use of blended fuels and clean energy. Bioenzymes find applications in baking, detergents, textiles, and pharmaceuticals. Emerging players include Scigenics Biotech, and 3OM Genomics, among many more.
  4. BioServices and BioIT – These segments encompass contract manufacturing, clinical research, and utilizing big data in the biotech industry.

India’s government has implemented several measures to boost the Bioeconomy and foster innovation and entrepreneurship in the biotech sector.

  1. Evolving startup ecosystem: Over the past decade, the number of biotech startups in India has skyrocketed from 50 to over 5,300 due to several initiatives launched by the government, such as Startup India, Skill India, and Innovate in India to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. Additionally, reducing the paperwork burden has saved time and costs for startups.
  2. Biotech parks and incubators: Establishing biotech parks and incubators across the country ensures state-of-the-art physical infrastructure and provides mentorship support for startups.
  3. Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and Self-employment and Talent Utilization (SETU) Program: These programs promote self-employment activities, particularly in technology-driven areas. The AIM has set up 5,441 Tinkering Labs in collaboration with NITI Aayog to nurture curiosity, creativity, and imagination among young minds.
  4. Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC): BIRAC, a not-for-profit Public Sector Enterprise, plays a crucial role in the biotech ecosystem. It supports high-risk research and helps nurture budding ideas in the sector.

The biotech sector is often called the “sunrise sector” in India due to its potential for driving economic growth. By leveraging biotechnology and engineering solutions for sustainable development, India is addressing the challenges of climate change and positioning itself as a global leader in the Bioeconomy. With its remarkable growth in biotech startups and ambitious targets for the future, India is paving the way toward a greener and more prosperous future.


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