The budgetary announcement to set up an agri-biotech cluster in Pune came as a pleasant surprise for biotech industrialists and biotechnology students in Pune. In his budget speech, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said two new agri-biotech clusters — one in Pune and another in Kolkata — would be established to promote the biotech industries.
The city, at present, hosts an International Biotech Park set up by Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), along with a private partner.
The city is also considered a hub of biotechnology and agriculture-related education. The announcement of an agri-biotech cluster will boost the agro industries and will also enhance research in the agri-biotech field, experts said.
The finance minister said, “The nascent agri-biotech cluster in Mohali will be scaled up to include plant-genetic and phenotype platforms… In addition to this, two new clusters, in Pune and Kolkata will be established.”
Welcoming the announcement, Rajendra Jagdale, director of Science and Technology Park (under Union Ministry of Science and Technology), said, “Setting up of an agri-biotech cluster will help the biotech industry and the present International Biotech Park, which has been struggling to invite biotech companies to set up their base at the Hinjewadi campus. This announcement will certainly help attract more companies.”
He added that an agri-biotech cluster essentially meant an industry-academia and research and development (R&D) cluster, including a small and medium enterprises and large scale industries. The companies in such a cluster include those dealing with food processing, bio-polymer, bio-fuel, bio-protein and functional food (specialised food for sportspersons, weight-loss regime, diabetic patients) and genetically modified seed.
“The cluster will also help aspiring bio-technologists from the city to get employed. There are several institutes and colleges in the city that teach biotech related courses. More companies will mean better jobs for them,” said Jagdale. There are as many as 37 colleges in the city that teach biotech courses.
He also said that Pune fulfilled all the basic requirements for such a centre to be set up.
“We have important institutes like National Institute of Virology, prominent agriculture universities, National Centre for Cell Science and National Institute of Abiotic Stress Management in the city. Also, Maharashtra has a booming agriculture-based economy. Apart from this, colleges can supply the workforce in the industry,” Jagdale added.