Economic relevance of Industrial Biotechnology

As part of the "Green Economy" industrial biotechnology combines economic with environmental intentions of the economy and contributes to deal with the global challenges of the 21st Century. In addition to the reduction of greenhouse gases, these include among others, the global food security and the development of alternative raw materials and energy sources.

Facts and Figures

Companies, jobs and gross value added in Germany

  • 13 percent of all employees in Germany and nearly eight percent of the gross value added of the German economy are directly related to the use of biological resources (2012). [1]
  • In 2011, approximately 11 percent and 58 (2010: 56) of the total 552 (2010: 538) German biotechnology company were exclusively active in the field of industrial biotechnology. [2]
  • In 2010, there were 3,250 people employed in 82 biotech companies with (main) focus on industrial biotechnology. [3] (data from 2011 are not available.)
  • For comparison: in 2010, a total of 15,480 people were employed in German companies with a focus on biotechnology (also called "red" biotechnology). [2] This means that in 2010 about 21 percent of workers in the biotechnological industry were employed in the field of industrial biotechnology.

The industrial biotechnology sector gets even more important when the far greater number of biotechnologically active companies is taken into account. This includes those companies using processes of industrial biotechnology only in a section of their corporate structure. For 2011, therefore, further 26 companies (just 5 percent) indicated "Industrial Biotechnology" as their main focus, and almost 35 percent, or 187 companies, do use industrial biotechnology for their activities, but not exclusively. [2]

You can find data on the development of the turnovers and R&D investment under "Industry and Green Economy".

Example data of selected segments

Fine and bulk chemicals

In the field of fine chemicals, DECHEMA explained that the worldwide market share of biotech products in the sector is estimated to 50 billion U.S. dollars (May 2011). This represents 16 percent of the total market share of biotechnological products with 800 billion U.S. dollars. [4]

According to the BMBF, biotechnological products with large volume (bulk chemicals) are e.g. amino acids such as L-glutamate with an annual production of 2.5 million tons and other chemicals such as acids, biopolymers, vitamins and carbohydrates with an annual world production of up to 20 million tons. [5]


"According to the data in the study “World Lubricants" of the Freedonia Group in 2011, the global demand for lubricants was 36.7 million tons in 2010. By 2015, the demand will increase to about 42 million tons. According to the Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (FNR) in Germany, about one million tons of lubricants are currently used annually, of which approximately 3.5 percent are biolubricants (35,000 tons)". [6]


For the global production of biofuels in 2010, the World Watch Institute, determined an increase of 17 percent to 105 billion liters compared to 2009 (90 billion liters). [7]


A Freedonia study (November 2011) forecasts the global bioplastics market a strong expansion of production. Thus, the global demand for biodegradable and bio-based plastics will more than triple by 2015 – to around 1 million tons. This corresponds to a value of 2.9 billion US dollar. For biodegradable polymers the thermoplastic starch, polylactic acid (PLA) and especially the polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) are expected to hold the greatest growth. [8] (more...)

[1] Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV): Biobasierte Wirtschaft eröffnet neue Chancen für den Umweltschutz und die Wirtschaft in Deutschland. Press release No. 312, 25/10/12. URL: (Accessed: 2012-11-15)
[2] Die deutsche Biotechnologie-Branche 2012., BIOCOM AG (eds.), Berlin 2012, pp. 10-11. URL:,property=pdf,bereich=bio,sprache=de,rwb=true.pdf (Accessed: 2012-11-13)
[3] Bundesregierung: Weiße Biotechnologie immer bedeutender. Message from 28.03.2012. URL:,did=150606.html (Accessed: 2012-11-15)
[4] DECHEMA Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology: Biotechnologie ganz groß! – Status Quo. URL:!.html (Accessed: 2012-11-16)!.
[5] Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF): Weiße Biotechnologie – Chancen für eine bio-basierte Wirtschaft. Bonn, Berlin, 2012. P 38
[6] DECHEMA Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology: ACHEMA Trendbericht Nr. 19: Biobased Chemicals, Biobasierte Schmierstoffe. Press release May 2012. URL: (Accessed: 2012-11-16)
[7] Worldwatch Institute: Biofuels Make a Comeback Despite Tough Economy. URL: (Accessed: 2012-11-16)
[8] The Freedonia Group, Inc.: World Bioplastics. Study # 2823rd November 2011.