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Brussels, 14 May 2009

State aid: Commission authorises French aid worth €46.3 million for the BioIntelligence R&D programme

The European Commission has decided not to raise any objections under the EC Treaty state aid rules to the financial support of €46.3 million granted by France to the BioIntelligence research and development (R&D) programme. The programme, to be coordinated by Dassault Systèmes, will involve SMEs specialised in bioinformatics, life science industries and public research institutes. BioIntelligence will promote the use of systemic modelling and simulation tools to exploit biomedical data bases. This innovative approach, based on the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) method used by manufacturing industries, will enable life science industries to optimise their research phases. The Commission concluded that the programme was compatible with the EU R&D framework (see IP/06/1600). In particular, the programme addresses a market failure and looks set to create positive effects in all bioinformatic and public health sectors without significantly changing competition conditions.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "The systemic modelling and simulation tools in this particularly innovative programme will substantially improve the efficiency of biological research. BioIntelligence, and the BioPLM platform that will be developed by it, are entirely consistent with two key objectives in European research. The aid will not bring about major distortions of competition."

The BioIntelligence R&D programme will last for five years and will account for a total of €118.2 million of eligible expenditure for the purposes of calculating the aid. Public support, amounting to €46.3 million, will mainly benefit the project leader, Dassault Systèmes (€14.5 million, including €6.4 million in the form of repayable advances). Sophia BioSystems (SoBioS) will receive €12.9 million, €7 million in the form of repayable advances, while other partners in the IT and life sciences sectors (pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and plant health products), will also benefit, as will public research institutes (INRIA, INSERM and Genopole).

Thanks to BioIntelligence, Dassault Systèmes, SoBioS and their partners will remove several technological obstacles in order to devise a way of representing biological knowledge that is compatible with the BioPLM approach and to develop tools for systemic modelling and simulation of biological data. Other bioinformatic software developers will benefit from access to the open, integrated BioPLM software platform which will be created as a result of the programme so that they can use it to integrate their proprietary applications.

On 28 October 2008, France notified aid of €14.5 and €12.9 million destined for Dassault Systèmes and SoBioS. The other partners were to receive smaller amounts of aid which did not, therefore, have to be notified for individual examination. This aid forms part of the French Industrial Innovation Agency’s aid scheme (N121/2006), which was authorised by the Commission on 19 July 2006 (see IP/06/1020).

The BioIntelligence programme, underpinned by a broad consortium of firms and research institutes, is suffering from coordination problems (mainly relating to the availability of the intellectual property needed to ensure its success) and information asymmetry (especially on financial markets). Yet it is generating positive external effects for the entire European Union in the bioinformatic and public health sectors. It is clear that market forces alone would never have given rise spontaneously to such a programme, because of the significant technological and economic risks involved. The distortions of competition caused by the public support will be limited because of the small amount of aid compared with total R&D expenditure in the bioinformatic sector. Lastly, because of the existence of powerful competitors and clients, competitive pressure and considerable negotiating leverage will be maintained on a bioinformatic market that has major development potential.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under case number N 541/2008 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the online newsletter "State aid Weekly e-News".

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