Fastest Growing Market in Europe Attracts New Foreign Direct Investment in Life Sciences
In 2020, the Lithuanian biotech sector showed annual growth of 87% according to the Lithuania Biotech Association, producing enormous profits for stakeholders and opening new opportunities for U.S. investment and partnerships.
Lithuania’s extensive pool of scientists, a well-educated labor-force, an array of established research & development institutions, and a growing number of innovation hubs helped drive a decade of expansion from 2010 to 2020. A new set of government efforts designed to attract foreign direct investment from US firms, including attractive tax incentives and state-funding opportunities, combined to produce a 900% increase in biotech revenue during that time.
Based on Global Market Insights forecasts, the US biotechnology sector is set to grow at a CAGR of 9.4 percent between 2021 to 2027, reaching the total market value of USD 952 BN. Such an expansion can only be achieved if the R&D environment stays competitive. Lithuanian biotechnology companies and academia claim that they are capable of supporting US businesses in developing new biotechnology products.
“Lithuania has a strong foundation in life sciences. We have famous scientists and enough talent and modern infrastructure. We’ve seen a sharp increase in the willingness to invest in life sciences startups, which is stimulating the birth of many businesses in this area. Last, but not least, our government’s economic promotion program provides special attention to this sector,” says Enterprise Lithuania’s Managing Director Daina Klepone.
The effects of the pandemic
The global pandemic presented many challenges, but also additional opportunities for investments and expedited growth in 2021. With close to 600 life science companies calling Lithuania home, employing over 7,500 people, Lithuania has been an important source of innovation.
“The whole world has seen the consequences that change can have on human health and the breakthrough that united science and business can achieve in their decision to solve a problem,” says Enterprise Lithuania’s Managing Director, Daina Kleponė. “The pandemic brought all private and public sector attention to this area, and last year it accounted for approximately 2.8% of Lithuania’s GDP.”
International biotech giants find a home in Lithuania
“Thermo Fisher Scientific” (NYSE: TMO), the world’s largest producer, and supplier of products and services for biomedical research, opened its Lithuanian office in 2010 and expanded its manufacturing capacity in 2020. The company’s experimental development center in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, focuses on creating and developing new products in the fields of molecular, protein, and cell biology.
“Biogen” (NASDAQ: BIIB), one of the pioneers in neuroscience and one of the world’s largest and oldest biotech companies, has just opened a new branch in Vilnius to conduct clinical trials and other projects in collaboration with local partners. They lead innovative scientific research intending to defeat neurological diseases such as MS, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s’.
These global giants opened new branches in Lithuania being sure that Lithuania can meet all their needs and requirements. They also found great infrastructure geared towards expansion and a favorable tax base. Other motivating factors for these companies were a rich pool of talent, an unsaturated market, and government/university partnerships, allowing for unprecedented growth for all companies.
A fast-growing hub of innovations
Lithuanians have a long-standing tradition for innovation – tens of life science startups are born here every year. The rising stars of Lithuania’s Biotech nowadays are leading cutting-edge research in the fields of microfluidics, CRISPR-based molecular tools, data-driven bio-design, and advanced biotechnology.
“Biomatter Designs”, another innovative startup, is pioneering the technologies for generative protein design at the intersection of synthetic biology and AI. They are working to develop experimental tools for the efficient collection of biological data. The company’s generative AI is explicitly tailored for protein science, allowing massive amounts of data to be translated into usable knowledge.
“CasZyme” is a startup co-founded in 2017 by professor Virginijus Siksnys, who was the first scientist to demonstrate programmable DNA cleavage by the Cas9 protein that can be utilized to operate precise double-strand breaks in DNA, thereby enabling a new era of gene editing. The company was backed by DowDuPont and collaborated continuously with various enterprises from the US to continue the research of CRISPR-based molecular tools – the company seeks to create new instruments for researchers involved in the gene-editing field.
The mechanism by which CRISPR can help our planet relies on applying “genetic scissors” to plants and microorganisms.
Strong scientific foundation and tech parks
All this achievement wouldn’t be possible without its well-educated labor force: Lithuania is 2nd in the EU by the number of young adults with bachelor’s degrees and the 1st in the EU, at 57%, of female scientists and engineers. Young professionals in Lithuania are skilled and enthusiastic about innovation and advancement in their chosen areas and produce tangible results in Biotech, Laser technologies, and IT.
These universities educate students to become leading scientists in biotechnology, biochemistry, and biosciences. They cooperate with international research institutions and business partners while taking the lead in mentoring and educating new generations of promising young people that are just starting in the field. No wonder that 23% of Lithuanian students choose programs related to the field.
The most prominent of them is Vilnius University Life Sciences Center (VU LSC). This new, innovative center with modern lab equipment and top-level scientific research services. On September 8th, 2020, LSC signed a partnership agreement with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), one of the leading research centers in the world, and became their 7th remote partner in the world. This agreement attests to the recognition of VU LSC as one of the world leaders in the research of the genome-editing field.
In addition to broad academical background, Lithuania offers science and technology parks as a tool to establish new and innovative businesses. Vilnius City Innovation Park (VCIIP) has a fully developed infrastructure near some of the best Lithuanian universities and main science centers. They are helping businesses to relocate with ease and convenience: VCIIP consultants provide help finding new markets, partnerships, funding resources, and help foreign companies to feel right at home in their state-of-the-art facilities.
What will US investors find in Lithuania?
Lithuania has seven Free Economic Zones in various locations providing unbeatable conditions to develop businesses by offering ready-to-build industrial sites with physical and legal infrastructure, support services, and tax incentives.
The government of Lithuania is actively creating more ways to attract further investments in Biotech. A new set of laws went into effect in 2021, guaranteeing a 0% corporate tax rate for the next 20 years for an investment of 20 million euros in capital expenditures and creating 150 new full-time jobs. To promote research and development, Lithuania’s government offers companies the opportunity to reduce their expenses incurred on R&D by making them fully tax-deductible. Companies considering foreign direct investment in Lithuania may even qualify for state funding, which will be negotiated with the government on a case-by-case basis in compliance with EU and national legislation.