The government is to invest up to £210 million in the UK's life sciences sector through its Industrial Strategy Challenges Fund. But why choose to boost an already-successful industry?

The answer is that it is not just life sciences that will benefit – so will patients, the NHS, and the whole economy.

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, was involved in the Life Sciences Sector Deal, and says: “The life sciences industry transforms lives. New treatments and technologies, being developed daily, provide better care and treatment, but also contribute significantly to our economy.”

In 2016, pharmaceutical manufacturing added £12.8 billion to the UK economy (7.3 per cent of total manufacturing gross value added (GVA)). Total life sciences manufacturing is estimated to account for 9.4 per cent of total UK manufacturing GVA.

The UK's 5,000+ life sciences companies, along with their associated services and supply chain, turn over £64 billion each year and employ over 230,000 people. Clark says: “Progress in this industry grows our economy and provides skilled jobs for the future.”

 

Why the UK?

 

The government is aiming to attract more life sciences industry investment. The UK has the most productive and highest-impact science base of the G7 countries, offers the lowest corporation tax of the G20 and G7 countries and enhanced R&D tax credits. Life sciences already accounts for around 20 per cent of all business spending on R&D and public investment in R&D will be raised to around £12.5 billion in 2021/22 – an increase of £7 billion over five years.

Meanwhile, with 60 million patients, the NHS offers a deep source of learning. Clark points to the NHS England and Government Test Bed programme, which created seven NHS-innovator partnerships to test how innovative health technologies can work in combination to improve patient outcomes at the same or lower cost than current practice, while supporting economic growth.

Britain’s clinical trial environment is also being boosted. Clark says: “In the Life Sciences Sector Deal, the government announced £950 million of investment through the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) for research infrastructure in the NHS, providing the expertise needed by the life sciences industry and other funders to undertake vital studies.”

 

Collaboration is vital for foreign investment

 

Clark says: “The government’s Industrial Strategy and the Life Sciences Sector Deal bring together universities, charities and over 25 companies to invest across the UK, and the sector deal is attracting substantial foreign investment.”

The NIHR enables collaboration between the life sciences industry, companies, charities, academia and the NHS. The NIHR’s clinical research network, for instance, uses adaptive trial designs to increase the speed and efficiency of testing new cancer treatments, and is making it easier for life sciences companies to undertake studies of inflammatory diseases and dementia.”

 

What about Brexit?

 

Continued cooperation between the EU and the UK is in the best interests of patients, and will ensure quality, safety and efficacy of medicines. The UK has a history of co-operation with the EU plus a close regulatory alignment built on strong trust in one another’s institutions and a spirit of collaboration stretching back decades. As the Prime Minister recently said, “we will want to make sure our regulators continue to work together… This will be essential for everything from getting new drugs to patients quickly to maintaining financial stability”.

Across the life sciences sector, he says: “The government aims to ensure that patients in the UK and Europe continue to access the best and most innovative medicines.”