The U.S. Bioeconomy: Charting a Course for a Resilient and Competitive Future was informed by the Task Force on Synthetic Biology and the Bioeconomy
Report recommends strategic $2 billion investment for U.S. to steer future of what could be a $30 trillion global industry for the benefit of people worldwide and provides strategic plan to achieve progress
NEW YORK, NY, April 14, 2022– Today, Schmidt Futures released “The U.S. Bioeconomy: Charting a Course for a Resilient and Competitive Future,” a strategy developed to outline what it would take for the U.S. and for people worldwide to maximize the benefits of the bioeconomy – from creating jobs to fighting climate change to reducing dependence on fossil fuels. The bioeconomy is economic activity driven by research and innovation in the life sciences and biotechnology to create useful products in a broad range of sectors including health, nutrition, agriculture, and industry.
Schmidt Futures’ work on the bioeconomy builds upon the core mission of the philanthropic initiative to bet early on a group of exceptional people making the world better, through solving hard problems in science and society. To achieve this goal, Schmidt Futures mobilized the Task Force on Synthetic Biology and the Bioeconomy in October 2021 in an effort to provide clear recommendations and solutions to hard problems in the field, and to lay the groundwork for a strong and efficient bioeconomy in the United States and beyond.
Members of the Task Force include subject matter experts across academic disciplines, including synthetic biology, physics, ethics, and chemistry; venture capitalists and industry leaders from both small and large companies; and leaders from biotechnology consortia. The report aims to spur federal action that will build a better world by:
- Reducing the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels
- Revitalizing U.S. manufacturing and cultivating a more diverse bioeconomy workforce
- Creating more resilient supply chains
- Addressing concerns regarding national competitiveness and national security
- Improving the nation’s health and the environment
- Contributing significantly to the goal of creating a net-zero carbon economy
“Synthetic biology is about to explode, it is the next frontier for innovation,” said Eric Schmidt, Co-Founder of Schmidt Futures with his wife, Wendy. “Right now, the U.S. has the opportunity to capture a leadership position in the circular bioeconomy, which will profoundly impact our ability to create and manufacture goods domestically. As a nation, we should want to get in on the ground floor, so that we can establish the standards for a sector destined to become a major driver of the global economy.”
“Our economy was not designed with the planet in mind. If anything, it was designed to consume the planet’s resources at an ever increasing rate,” said Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Futures. “The bioeconomy imagines a different path, a way to transform agriculture, manufacturing, and other industries so that we can work with, rather than against the natural world, to create a healthy, sustainable future.”
The Task Force has identified funding opportunities to develop a bioeconomy that will deliver substantial economic and public benefits, including the creation of over 1 million high-paying jobs, and the revitalization of underserved and marginalized communities across the nation. The results of the Task Force’s work were published in an interim report and in succession, the new report offers additional recommendations and an implementation strategy. This can help guide the U.S. government, academia, and industry towards global leadership in bio-based production, and the development of a circular U.S. bioeconomy, in which waste products are repurposed sustainably to create highly valued products and materials.
“For the first time, the country’s foremost experts from across disciplines were brought together to chart the course toward a circular bioeconomy that transforms the carbon we have into the carbon we need,” said Mary Maxon, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Schmidt Futures. “The time is right to capitalize on the current momentum in support of revitalizing technology-based manufacturing in the United States, as a means of spurring regional and more equitable economic development and ensuring the US develops a world-leading bioeconomy.”
The bioeconomy, which generates at least 5% of U.S. GDP, is severely lacking the adequate investment in advanced manufacturing science and engineering required to scale the research, infrastructure, and workforce that will seed the next wave of innovation in engineering biology. Currently, vital talent and facilities are outsourced beyond the U.S., impeding the potential growth of a future bioeconomy where biology is used to produce 96% of domestic manufactured products.
“This strategy underscores the need for national action on the bioeconomy and provides the federal government and other stakeholders with a roadmap that will lead to yet-to-be-imagined opportunities for all communities across the country and create a diverse workforce in the process,” said Andrea Hodgson, Ph.D., Fellow, Schmidt Futures.
“The U.S. Bioeconomy: Charting a Course for a Resilient and Competitive Future” identifies five strategic pillars with key actions that the federal government and other stakeholders can take to address this gap in funding. A concerted national effort will require a coordinated system-of-systems approach. The U.S. must create an administrative “home” for the bioeconomy to coordinate economic growth activities, address foundational science and technology challenges, build a national infrastructure for bioproduction, develop a well-trained, diverse workforce, and enable centralized leadership and a policy environment that incentivizes and supports a circular bioeconomy.
Alongside a series of efforts begun this year, the Task Force’s work further illustrates this model alongside programs that are addressing hard problems such as what we have to get right in AI by 2050 to the development of scientific software to the way in which we identify and support exceptional talent.
“The U.S. Bioeconomy: Charting a Course for a Resilient and Competitive Future” is available for download at https://www.schmidtfutures.org/our-work/task-force-on-synthetic-biology-and-the-bioeconomy/
Task Force Members
Andrea Hodgson, Co-lead
Mary E. Maxon, Co-lead
Joe Alper, Science Writer
Robert Hanson, Illustrator
Sifang Chen, Research Associate*
Kathryn Hamilton, Research Associate*
Albert Hinman, Research Associate*
With the exception of Schmidt Futures program co-leads, all members participated in their personal capacity. While this document generally reflects the observations, insights, and recommendations of the group, it should not be assumed that every member will have agreed with everything expressed herein.
* Denotes the Task Force members who contributed to both the interim report and this final document. With the exception of Schmidt Futures program co-leads, all members participated in their personal capacity. While this document generally reflects the observations, insights, and recommendations of the group, it should not be assumed that every member will have agreed with everything expressed herein.
About Schmidt Futures:
Schmidt Futures bets early on exceptional people making the world better. Founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative that brings talented people together in networks to prove out their ideas and solve hard problems in science and society. To learn more about our method and the diverse types of capital and tools that we deploy, visit https://www.schmidtfutures.org.