By 2020, Europe will be the world's top knowledge economy says the architect of the Lisbon Agenda, Jose Mariana Gago. Startling developments in biotech, genomics and stem-cell research are promoted as offering far-reaching new opportunities in conditions ranging from Alzheimer's disease to genetic disorders like diabetes.

If the number of treatments actually reaching the market place has been disappointing, the finger is often pointed at the turbulent relations pharmaceutical companies face with policy makers, regulators and members of the public, who are themselves challenged by issues raised by the new technologies.

Managing Director of the Netherlands Biotech Industry Association, Dr. Rob Janssen says most countries are looking for ways to improve their biotech climate but questions whether they are taking the right measures.

"Countries are investing heavily in scientific research, even when their research is already on a very high level. It would be better to invest in measures which are helpful to business." As part of the Innogen Centre's strategy to contribute to such developments, the University of Edinburgh would welcome the endowment of a chair of innovation and industry strategies in genomics and the life sciences.

Further issues addressed at an international conference on the Evolution of the Life Science Industries in Edinburgh at the end of February include the global implications for stem cell research of President Bush's re-election, defence against the misuse by terrorists of biotech discoveries, what it means to have the property rights of the genomes of the entire population of Iceland and concerns over the applications of biological research to food.; Source: Economic & Social Research Council