Biotechnology

Biotechnology


Biotechnology is the use of scientific knowledge about biological systems and living organisms to create new products and solve problems.

For thousands of years we have been using biotechnology in agriculture, food production and medicine, including:

  • Domesticating wild plants and animals for farming, and using selective breeding to adapt them to our needs
  • Using yeasts – a type of single-celled fungi – to make bread and beer, and bacteria to make yoghurt and cheese
  • Extracting antibiotics such as penicillin from moulds (single-celled fungi)
  • Using plant extracts as medicines; for example, aspirin from willow bark

More recent applications of biotechnology include:

  • Bioremediation – using microbes to remove or neutralise pollutants; for example, the use of Pseudomonas bacterium to biodegrade oil spills
  • Using genetically engineered bacteria to synthesise human insulin for people with diabetes
  • Developing transgenic plants that can produce their own pesticides, are herbicide resistant, or contain extra vitamins
  • Industrial fermentation to produce biofuels, such as ethanol, from waste materials

Biotechnology research and development in New Zealand mostly involves researchers working for Crown Research Institutes (CRIs), universities and private companies.

Key tertiary qualifications include:

  • Bachelor of Science or Technology, majoring in Biotechnology, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics, Genetics or Molecular Biology
  • Bachelor of Engineering, specialising in Chemical, Biological or Bioprocess Engineering

You will probably need a postgraduate qualification such as a Master’s degree or PhD to work in a research position. A Bachelor’s degree is often required even for technician-level roles.

Recommended school subjects:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Maths, especially Calculus (required for engineering pathways)
  • Physics (required for engineering pathways)
  • English
  • Technology subjects 

Job roles in this industry

  • Agricultural or Horticultural Scientist

    Agricultural or Horticultural Scientist

    Agricultural or Horticultural Technician

    Agricultural or Horticultural Technician

    Biomedical Engineer

    Biomedical Engineer

    Biomedical Scientist

    Biomedical Scientist
  • Biotechnologist

    Biotechnologist

    Chemical & Process Engineer

    Chemical & Process Engineer

    Chemist

    Chemist

    Entrepreneur/Intrapreneur

    Entrepreneur/Intrapreneur
  • Food Scientist

    Food Scientist

    Forestry Scientist

    Forestry Scientist

    Marine/Coastal Scientist

    Marine/Coastal Scientist

    Microbiologist

    Microbiologist

Companies and organisations in this industry

  • AgResearch
    AgResearch
    Focus Genetics
    Focus Genetics
    Scion
    Scion
    Plant & Food Research
    Plant & Food Research
  • Fonterra
    Fonterra
    Westland Milk Products
    Westland Milk Products

Futureintech is an initiative of Engineering New Zealand, funded by Callaghan Innovation

Home