The new study, commissioned by IG BCE (mining, chemical and energy industrial union), DIB (German Association of Biotechnology Industries) and the Hans Boeckler Stiftung foundation, set out to gain a scientifically substantiated picture of biotechnology in Germany in the present day, and in the future.
It found that the food industry presently ranks first in biotechnology applications (direct and supplier industries), with jobs for between 193,000 and 493,000 people (out of an estimate of 169,000 to 350,000 in application, 83,000 to 93,000 in the core sector, 217,000 to 471,000 in upstream industries).
This is expected to rise to 294,000 to 553,000 by 2020.
Despite the anticipated growth, however, the researchers said it is imperative that the country does not rest on its laurels with respect to using the potential decisively and improving framework conditions, so that it is not "left behind in dynamic international developments".
Dr Ricardo Gent of DIB told FoodNavigator.com that the fundamental point is to make better use of the synergies between pharma biotech, industrial biotech, plant biotech and other biotech fields.
Biotechnology is a true cross-section technology, he said.
"But the German Government, the EU and other EU Member States have not yet understood this and consequently set up regulations that support one biotech-sector (eg industrial biotech) but impair other biotech-sectors at the same time."
For instance, stringent regulation on plant biotechnology in the EU means that renewable resources for chemical industry and industrial biotech cannot be developed and used.
Dr Gent highlighted the need to look at the synergies of a cross-section technology and adjust policies, regulations, laws, investments, public funding accordingly in order to exploit unused potential.
In particular he said that one of the most pressing areas for biotech in the food industry is elimination of allergens, such as gluten.
The full scientific methodology was not immediately available from the study's commissioners, but they said it was not restricted to just the core sector, but also covered universities, research establishments, biotech SMEs (small and medium enterprises), outfitters, suppliers and biotech-based plant breeding.
According to the DIB, Germany ranks number one in Europe in industrial biotech, second after the UK in the pharmaceutical biotech sector, and second or third in agriculture.
But it is the chemical industry that is expected to see the greatest growth in biotech jobs, with figures rising up to 200 per cent from 37,000 to 56,000 jobs today to 82,000 to 164,000 in 2020.
The researchers said that this inclusive approach explains why the figures are higher than those reported by some other surveys.