Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)


  1.  The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) represents the majority of the companies in Britain engaged in the research, development, manufacturing and supply of prescription medicines. The ABPI brings together companies producing such medicines, whether branded or generic, many smaller organisations involved in pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical R&D, and those with an interest in the pharmaceutical industry operating in the UK. ABPI member companies manufacture and supply more than 80 per cent of the medicines prescribed through the NHS and are major exporters to countries all over the world.

  2.  Six out of the world's top 25 medicines were discovered and developed in British laboratories. As a result, patients in the UK benefit from the early introduction of new medicines here.

  3.  The industry's long history of pharmaceutical innovation is supported by intensive research activity. The vast majority of medicines research carried out in the UK is funded by the pharmaceutical industry and most of the major global pharmaceutical companies have established research and manufacturing bases in this country. As a result, the industry is an important employer, with around 60,000 people employed directly and many more in feeder industries. The industry invested £2.7 billion in R&D in 1999—more than £7 million every day.

  4.  The strengths of the pharmaceutical industry's R&D activities in the UK are dependent upon the quality of the graduates and postgraduates arising from the countries; universities. The industry's confirmed investment in the UK has also long been dependent upon the quality of the research carried out in the universities, research institutes and clinical centres here, with many of which collaborative arrangements have long been established.


  5.  In view of the importance of the UK Science Base to the pharmaceutical industry, the ABPI and its member companies saw the introduction of the 1993 White Paper as a major development.

  6.  ABPI considered at the time that the 1993 White Paper was seminal in placing science on the Government agenda in a serious way. No other initiatives in the previous two decades had attempted to address the many issues related to the academic science base, education and industrial needs and opportunities. The ABPI believed that the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, William Waldegrave, and the Chief Scientific Officer, William Stewart, were an excellent team who created enough energy to conceive and implement this White Paper.

  7.  One of the key outcomes of the White Paper was the Technology Foresight initiative which, as Foresight, has just come to the end of another round of consultation. The ABPI was actively involved in the early discussions on Foresight as an exemplar of good practice, an industry with a strong research base, high productivity and a substantial contribution to the Nation's balance of payments. The industry participated in many of the Foresight Taskforces and was widely involved in the Foresight process, particularly on the Chemicals and Health Care Panels.


The extent to which the industry believes that the objectives set out in the 1993 White Paper "Realising our Potential" has been delivered

8.  ABPI believes that in the main, the objectives of the 1993 White Paper were met.

  9.  In particular, the profile of science and scientists was raised across the nation in academia, Government establishments, industry and the investment community and with the public. The take-up was variable, of course, but there were many good initiatives, including Foresight and the SET programmes. It was particularly important that the White Paper allowed more effective access to Government, and its agencies, by scientists, initially through the Duchy of Lancaster and subsequently through the DTI.

  10.  There was more transparency on the budgetary aspects of the science base, particularly over a longer time frame through the Forward Look documents and the dialogue created around them.

  11.  The restructured Research Councils and the appointment of the Director General of Research Councils were seen as successful and positive moves to relate the funding of research more closely to its community. The operation of the main Research Councils, EPSRC, BBSRC, MRC, and ESRC remain generally effective. Issues concerning the interface between the formal remits of the Councils, as in life sciences research, do continue to arise, but are generally handled well.

  12.  The Science Base still requires a significant improvement in infrastructure, particularly in its academic elements. It must be acknowledged, however, that substantial efforts have been made through the recent infrastructural funding initiative. A longer-term programme of investment is, however, needed.

  13.  The public is still uncomfortable with some elements of science and its products. A number of the major issues over the last five years, eg BST, GMOs, cloning etc, have made this worse. Although the SET weeks and other initiatives have in themselves been successful, it is disappointing the public at large remains deeply suspicious of science, particularly when it is conducted in industry. The ABPI and its member companies have active programmes in promoting the benefits of their research, but more can and should be done. To increase public awareness of science requires, we believe, more innovative thought and resource. Greater transparency in the handling of scientific issues by Government is also needed.

  14.  The 1993 White Paper was necessarily pan-sectoral although Technology Foresight did try to address specific sectoral interests, e.g chemicals, pharmaceuticals etc. The pharmaceutical industry was seen as an excellent example of industry in tune with its science base, and was often quoted as "best practice". As a result, unfortunately, it may have subsequently been less favoured with initiatives, a casualty of its own success.

  Technology Foresight was an excellent strategic tool but perhaps was used too early in tactical funding decisions on an annual basis. Foresight was intended to look 10-20 years into the future.

  15.  Govermental efforts then and now are motivated towards increasing the number of spin-out, start-up companies. Whilst the growth of the SME biotech community is to be welcomed, the need for sustainability must be considered. In the long-term, high-risk, pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical sectors, there was, has been and still is a lack of adequate funding at the second stage of development of companies. It is at this stage (where ideas, which have been reduced to practice and taken on into development) that there is a shortage of resourcing. Companies at this stage require money in the £2-5 million bracket rather than the £0.2-5 million needed for seed corn investment.

  16.  The reorganised Research Councils took a long time to address interface areas of science, many of which are of substantial interest to the industry, notably biomolecular sciences, pharmaceutical sciences and materials science in the biological arena. This is an aspect that the DGRC is undoubtedly aware of, but the barriers to progress remains a matter for concern in the user community. At the same time, co-ordinating major initiatives, for example, linking electronic patient records and SNP databases, remains a difficult issue that appears only able to be tackled at Governmental level.

Whether the objectives and themes of the 1993 White Paper remain appropriate to the development of a strategy for science, engineering and technology and, if not, what other themes and objectives would be more beneficial.


  New areas of particular interest to the pharmaceutical industry relate to the increase in partnership structures between companies themselves and between the industry and academia. There is also a growing increase of "contracted out research" outside perceived core areas of expertise in companies. This suggests that flexibility and inter-disciplinarity should be key elements in any new themes and that sectoral difference should be recognised.

Whether attempts to deliver the proposals of the 1993 White Paper have resulted in a culture change across, or in parts of, the science, engineering and technology base and, if so, what is the nature of this change and how has it been demonstrated?

  18.  The proposals of the 1993 White Paper attempted to induce a cultural change across the UK's science base. Although the industry has been going through major changes since the publication of the White Paper, the ABPI believes that few cultural changes have occurred in the industry as a result of the White Paper. There have, however, been substantial changes in the interactions between the Research Councils and industry, which are welcomed and hopefully will be further developed over time.

  The Government's recent consultation on Science and Innovation Strategy stated that "the aim is to use the UK's excellence in science to achieve improvements in our national innovation performance and so to improve the competitiveness of the economy and the quality of everyone's life" and indicated its plans to achieve this by:

    —  sustaining the excellence of the science and technology base

    —  encouraging private investment in innovation

    —  streamlining knowledge transfer schemes and focussing them on clear goals

    —  fostering regional networks

    —  improving the flow of skilled scientists and engineers to industry

    —  improving the ability of the science base to play a role in the knowledge economy

    —  taking advantage of the globalisation of research, and

    —  improving public confidence by creating greater transparency in the regulation of science.


  19.  The Government's recent consultation on Science and Innovation Strategy, which sought to use the UKs excellence in the science base to achieve improvements in our national innovation performance, was timely and useful.

  20.  ABPI supports the goal of sustained excellence in the academic Science Base but feels that the key issues of selection and directed funding to Centres of Excellence in research has not been addressed.

  We have long argued that limited resources, available in the UK for funding research, cannot be applied across more than 100 universities in the expectation that excellence will be developed or sustained. We welcomed the commitment given in the White Paper to continuing support for dual-funding and continue to believe that this is important if truly innovative new science is to be carried out. It has long been clear, however, that the dual-funding system is under-resourced. Though selectivity of resource allocation is essential, we accept that it carries with it the danger of stifling the unexpected and preventing the emergence of new centres of excellence: dual-funding provides an essential mechanism to allow new fields to become established.

  21.  We also feel that the arrangements for the training of postgraduate scientists (policy 12 in 1.18 of the White Paper) still leave room for improvement and there is still a serious problem in the career track for professional young scientists.

  22.  Encouraging private investment in innovation differs between sectors and the biotechnology sector/industry has been extremely volatile of late. We accept that there is an inadequate amount of second stage funding available for those start-ups recently established in the UK. At the same time, the present trend towards consolidation by SMEs may have mixed results. Certainly some companies are being encouraged into partnerships that may not be in the long term interests of the prospective partners but the result does allow exits for investors.

  23.  Knowledge transfer is a key driver for the pharmaceutical industry but its transfer needs are probably different to the needs in other sectors and a sensitive approach is needed to this area.

  24.  There is clearly a major opportunity within the SME sector of the pharmaceutical/biopharmaceutical industry in the provision of regional support networks. SMEs need access to such support but can rarely make time to attend discussion or help groups which appear to be centred in London, Edinburgh or Cardiff. Increasing the tailored support for SME needs locally would be a great help along with an awareness programme and seamless contact points.

  25.  The supply of skilled postgraduate and postdoctoral scientists to industry remains vitally important. The industry will, however, always look for the "Quality" descriptor in such supply chains and indeed would be happy to work with academia in their supply. The ABPI continues to have discussions with Learned and Professional Societies to seek their perspective on this issue and to promote current industry thinking. It is important that the infrastructure to support the training needs for the industry is well maintained.

  26.  In our industry the science base is integral in our knowledge economy—indeed it is integrated throughout the whole supply chain from discovery through development to manufacture and sales. We are a global industry and try to seek appropriate support through tax incentives, effective but not excessive regulatory processes, a minimal bureaucracy consonant with effective business procedures and a general supportive environment. We do recognise that the needs of SMEs mid-range and "big" pharma may differ and try to participate in discussions with other representative organisations to achieve a balanced solution.

  ABPI and its member companies tries locally and nationally to build public confidence by creating greater transparency in the regulation of science. We do not believe the answer lies in the greater regulation of science.

What do we believe should be the main features of a modern strategy for science, engineering and technology, and why?

  27.  A modern strategy for science, engineering and technology must be open, interactive, and be embedded in both government and industrial cultures. The ABPI is committed to work with all parties to achieve this. That the Government is again preparing a White Paper on Science and Innovation is a welcome sign that the importance of science to the UK economy is fully appreciated. If the forthcoming White Paper is as effective in stimulating awareness as was "Realising our Potential" in 1993 then it will be an important and influential document.

July 2000

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