The Commission has decided not to raise any objections under EU state aid rules to the financial aid granted by France to the OSIRIS research and development (R&D) programme. The programme is coordinated by the Soufflet group, in association with the company Maguin and a French research laboratory. The aim of the project is to develop new biotechnology products and processes with a view in particular to improving the use of agricultural resources in biofuels and animal nutrition. The aid amounts to approximately €31 million.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said "OSIRIS will help to develop new products for the benefit of consumers and this will have a positive effect on the whole of the EU." 

OSIRIS's R&D programme is worth a total of €77 million over a period of eight years and aims to produce tools for the rapid selection of micro-organisms, develop industrial solid-state fermentation processes and create specific biotechnology products to improve the yield of biofuel production from wheat and maize in particular. These biotechnology products should also boost the performance of cereals and oilseeds and protein crops used for animal feed and increase the yield of co-products of biofuel production. They will also generate health benefits for consumers of non-alcoholic beer and malted beverages. Finally, they will protect cereal crops from the disease fusariosis.

The programme is coordinated by the Soufflet group, a French family firm specialising in the collection and transformation of agricultural resources, which will cooperate with two other partners: the company Maguin and the chemical biology laboratory of the Institut de Sciences et d'Ingénierie Supramoléculaires (Institute of Supramolecular Science and Engineering), part of the Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg.

The Industrial Innovation Agency's aid scheme was authorised by the Commission on 19 July 2006. France notified its intention to grant the aid of €31 million to the OSIRIS programme on 22 June 2007. After a detailed examination, the Commission concluded that the measure satisfies the conditions laid down in the Community framework.

The Commission's analysis shows that the implementation of the OSIRIS programme is not spontaneously market-driven because the research findings associated with it will inevitably be disseminated and will benefit other parties, including competitors. The knowledge disseminated will be linked in particular to advances in solid-state fermentation. This promising technology, which has hitherto been neglected because of technical difficulties, offers an alternative to liquid-state fermentation, an older and more common technique but one which has its limitations.

In addition, the aid granted by France is an effective instrument which has a genuine incentive effect on the partners in the programme, and the amount of the aid is proportionate. Finally, the distortions caused by the aid should have only a limited impact on the competitive working of the markets concerned, given that the Soufflet group is a new entrant to these growth markets, where the resources devoted to R&D by the established players are much larger than the aid under consideration here. Nor will the Soufflet group be able to create barriers to entering the relevant markets. The OSIRIS programme mainly consists of work which is far removed from the markets and the results of which will benefit the other players too. In addition, its impact on the markets will be felt only in the long term, thus allowing competitors to react to its implementation. [11 October 07]