National Academies Press: OpenBook

Safeguarding the Bioeconomy (2020)

Chapter: Part III: Understanding the Risks Associated with the U.S. Bioeconomy

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Suggested Citation:"Part III: Understanding the Risks Associated with the U.S. Bioeconomy." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Safeguarding the Bioeconomy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25525.
Page 187

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Part III Understanding the Risks Associated with the U.S. Bioeconomy The previous two parts of the report described the components of the bioeconomy and, the ecosystem in which the bioeconomy operates, and articulates its economic importance. This holistic examination enabled the committee to identify risks related to the bioeconomy and potential policy options for addressing those risks. This discussion responds directly to elements of the committee’s statement of task and a major motivating factor for the commissioning of this study. Chapter 7 reviews the risks identified by the committee that pertain to the U.S. bioeconomy. These risks are divided into two major categories: those related to failing to promote the U.S. bioeconomy (risks resulting from actions or inactions that could prevent the bioeconomy from flourishing), and those resulting from by a failure to protect the U.S. bioeconomy. (risks to the bioeconomy and risks posed by its subversion or misuse). The discussion also addresses policy tools that could be used to mitigate the identified risks, and considers the implications of such measures. While it is impossible to imagine the absence of a U.S. bioeconomy, should the U.S. bioeconomy not reach its potential the benefits it might otherwise have delivered would be forfeit. These benefits might include safer and improved foods, advanced materials, sources of clean energy, pharmaceuticals and improved health, a cleaner and lower-carbon-emission environment, jobs, and economic growth—all of which would either be foregone or require importation from economic competitors overseas. In the latter case, U.S. consumers might still benefit, but U.S. producers would lose “first mover advantages” and leadership in the relevant technologies. These risks are addressed in chapter 7 with respect to certain aspects of the bioeconomy, but they are not explicitly quantified or analyzed in depth; they represent the cost to the United States of not realizing—or not realizing first—the various benefits sought from the bioeconomy that have been discussed elsewhere in this report. This chapter sets the stage for the final section of the report, in which the committee provides its overall conclusions and recommendations. Prepublication Copy 187

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Research and innovation in the life sciences is driving rapid growth in agriculture, biomedical science, information science and computing, energy, and other sectors of the U.S. economy. This economic activity, conceptually referred to as the bioeconomy, presents many opportunities to create jobs, improve the quality of life, and continue to drive economic growth. While the United States has been a leader in advancements in the biological sciences, other countries are also actively investing in and expanding their capabilities in this area. Maintaining competitiveness in the bioeconomy is key to maintaining the economic health and security of the United States and other nations.

Safeguarding the Bioeconomy evaluates preexisting and potential approaches for assessing the value of the bioeconomy and identifies intangible assets not sufficiently captured or that are missing from U.S. assessments. This study considers strategies for safeguarding and sustaining the economic activity driven by research and innovation in the life sciences. It also presents ideas for horizon scanning mechanisms to identify new technologies, markets, and data sources that have the potential to drive future development of the bioeconomy.

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