Commission approves French state aid for biotech programme

The European Commission has cleared the awarding of EUR 31 million in state aid from the French Industrial Innovation Agency for biotechnology research.

The EU’s regime for state aid is intended to prevent Member States from protecting or promoting companies to the detriment of competitors within the EU. The goals are to guarantee an
undistorted single market while boosting competitiveness.

Having examined the French research programme, known as OSIRIS, the Commission has concluded that it is not spontaneously market-driven as the research results that follow will be disseminated,
benefiting other parties, including competitors.

‘OSIRIS will help to develop new products for the benefit of consumers and this will have a positive effect on the whole of the EU,’ said EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

In addition, the Commission regards the aid as having a genuine incentive effect on the partners in the programme, and considers the level of aid as proportionate.

The OSIRIS research and development (R&D) programme has a funding envelope of ?77 million that will be spread over eight years. The aim is to produce tools for the rapid selection of
micro-organisms, to develop industrial solid-state fermentation processes, and to create specific biotechnology products that will improve the yield of biofuel production from wheat and maize
in particular.

These biotechnology products should also boost the performance of the cereals, oilseeds and protein crops used for animal feed while increasing the harvest of the co-products yielded during
biofuel production. Finally, the technology will be used to produce alcohol-free beer and malted beverages, and to protect cereal crops from the disease fusariosis.

The programme will be coordinated by the Soufflet group, a French family-run firm specialising in the collection and transformation of agricultural resources. It will also involve another
French company and a research institute.

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