LONDON — Forget European unity. When it comes to competition within the biotechnology industry, even next-door neighbours like France and Germany can become rivals in the quest for supremacy. Which may explain why the French government has determined that catching up with Germany should be its primary goal, as it seeks to bolster the domestic biotech sector with a pledge to provide all the flexibility it needs to succeed.

President Jacques Chirac last week promised that biotech companies will "play a major role" in improving the health of the French people as well as the country's economic growth. To do so, the government has recommended new free-enterprise zones that will restrict the number of labour and tax regulations faced by employers. The president's pledge follows a commitment last autumn by the government to 'pump prime' the industry to the tune of £150 million. In return, the industry is expected to...

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