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


Memorandum submitted by GlaxoSmithKline

  I am responding as Chairman of GlaxoSmithKline, the newly merged corporation comprising Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham. As you will recall both companies submitted evidence back in June last year. The following comments build upon those submissions.

  First I would stress that GlaxoSmithKline welcomes the White Paper as a significant and positive step in the science and innovation agenda in the UK. The Paper contains many sensible suggestions, building on developments since the 1993 White Paper carried through successive Governments. Particular points of note include:

    —  The emphasis on the importance of scientific excellence as the main criterion governing investment in basic science.

    —  The strategic understanding that universities must adopt a variety of missions in order to build on their individual strengths.

    —  The acceptance that Government must facilitate the translation of research advances into tangible national benefits, eg, in healthcare and that this requires continuing attention to build bridges between the public and private sectors. The call for action to harness the enormous impact and benefits of genetics research for future health by developing a strategy for service provision in the NHS is particularly welcome.

    —  The recognition that science and innovation need a stable and transparent framework of public support within which they can develop.

    —  The acknowledgement that, while the UK has a leading international reputation as a centre for science and innovation, there is no room for complacency.

    —  The introduction of a Small Business Research Initiative, inspired by the US example, opening up R&D procurement.

    —  The central understanding that growing scientific excellence is impossible without better science education in secondary schools.

    —  The importance of capitalising on the European and wider international dimensions in scientific research and collaboration and of encouraging the best people to come to the UK.

    —  The commitment to deregulating European markets and, in particular, speeding up product and patent approvals within the EU.

  Overall the White Paper is to be warmly welcomed. There are however, a few areas where I believe careful consideration is needed as the work outlined is taken forward.

    —  First, the White Paper continues to enlarge the number of initiatives that support the positive exploitation of science and technology in the UK and creates a positive climate for innovation. All of these are justifiable in their own right, but there is no indication of which existing initiatives will be brought to an end or developed to address new objectives. This is always a difficult issue for governments, but a review of existing initiatives, their complementary roles and potential for development or cessation should be addressed in every White Paper.

    —  Second, the co-ordination of science and innovation policy across government is key. Too often positive strategies and investment by one government department, is undermined by another. The science and innovation strategies being developed across Whitehall, if effective, will provide a more coherent approach that should allow the UK to capitalise on its scientific and innovative capabilities across many sectors and have maximum impact on enhancing the quality of life for all in the UK.

    —  Third, GlaxoSmithKline applauds the intention signalled in the White Paper to encourage better IP management by universities and other publicly funded research institutions. We would however be most concerned if this were to result in the introduction of any Bayh-Dole" type legislation. As you may know, the Bayh-Dole Act was enacted in the USA in 1980 to encourage use of the patent system to promote the utilisation of inventions from federally supported research or development. In doing so, it provided a framework for the ownership and exploitation of intellectual property arising from government funded research in US universities, small businesses and non-profit organisations.

    —  The Act includes a number of worrying features all of which could serve as major disincentives to industry and academia collaboration if introduced into the UK. Key examples include the provision that the US government retains the right to take title to any invention made by a government employee and to ensure that inventions are properly exploited (so called "march-in" rights).

    —  US Universities may also elect to retain title to inventions arising from research funded in whole or in part by federal funds. This raises the possibility of US universities owning intellectual property generated using what is substantially company funding, perhaps because certain equipment used within the collaboration has been provided to the university by prior federal funding.

    —  Creating an environment to support exploitation and commercialisation of inventions arising from government funded research is clearly vital to sustaining the UK economy. Introducing into the UK legislation equivalent to Bayh-Dole however, would significantly undermine the flexibility and creativity that currently underpins industry and academia collaborations.

    —  Finally, as you may recall from SmithKline Beecham's initial submission to your enquiry, we welcome the Committee's support for extending the system of R&D credits to all companies (not just SMEs). The Chancellor's pre-Budget statement heralding an HMT initiative looking into incentives for vaccine development and announcing plans to consider extending to larger companies an existing scheme for small businesses under which they could offset their R&D against tax, suggests a shift in Government thinking on this issue. Enclosed therefore, is a short briefing paper on the R&D tax credits, emphasising the need for further discussion as part of the broader debate on science and innovation in the UK.[25]

  Any support the Committee could led to promoting these concerns—while acknowledging the White Paper's many strengths—would be most welcome.

11 January 2001

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