Innovation holds the potential for economic prosperity. Biotechnology (BT) has proved to be a viable vehicle for the development and utilization of technologies, which has brought not only advances to society, but also career opportunities to nation-states that have enabling conditions. In this review, we assess the current state of BT-related activities within selected new and preaccession EU countries (NPA) of CEE region namely Croatia, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, examining educational programs, research activity, enterprises, and the financing systems. The field of BT covers a broad area of activities, including medical, food and agriculture, aquaculture or marine, environmental, biofuels, bioinformatics, and many others. Under the European Commission (EC), member-states are to set their Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialization (RIS3), to identify priorities or strengths in order to develop knowledge intensive economies. As the four countries highlighted in this review are in the early stages of implementing RIS3 or have not yet fully formulated, it presents an opportunity to learn from the successes and failures of those that have already received major structural funds from the EC. A critical point will be the ability of the public and private sectors' actors to align, in the implementation of RIS3 as new investment instruments emerge, and to concentrate efforts on a few select target goals, rather than distribute funding widely without respect to a long-term vision.