Submission from the BioIndustry Association
PUTTING SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING AT THE HEART
OF GOVERNMENT POLICY
"Has the time come for the UKas part
of a clear economic strategyto make choices about the balance
of investment in science and innovation to favour those areas
in which the UK has clear competitive advantage?"
The BioIndustry Association is the trade association
for innovative enterprises in the UK's bioscience sector, representing
over 300 members involved in realising the human health benefits
that bioscience promises.
Historically the UK has been at the forefront of
biomedical innovation with a legacy of leading the development
of innovative medicines that have transformed healthcare and brought
real benefits to patients as well as increasing national wealth.
Government has recognised the importance of bioscience to the
UK's future prosperity in reports such as Lord Sainsbury's review
of science and innovation in 2007 and DIUS' Annual Innovation
Report 2008. However, there remain distinct threats and challenges
ahead that must be overcome if UK bioscience is to deliver lasting
improvements in healthcare and compete internationally.
Industry is committed to working with Government
to implement the recommendations outlined in the Bioscience 2015
Review and Refresh report but we also urge Government to commit
all it can to ensuring that UK bioscience is mobilised to exploit
its knowledge and expertise and retain its competitive advantage.
The greatest problem the sector is currently
facing arises from inadequate financing, exacerbated by the effects
of the global economic crisis. As a result, many viable and innovative
UK enterprises will face severe financial challenges in the coming
months, which will have a negative impact on the innovation pace
and the science base in the UK. Maintaining our success in the
face of much competition from abroad will also depend on nurturing
and developing a pool of highly talented bioscience professionals.
This will need to be achieved by attracting and retaining the
best current talent and supporting leaders of the future.
The BIA is very supportive of any approach that
better uses the strategic role of Government in order to translate
scientific excellence into economic impact by building a strong
private sector. It is an approach to public policy that the Association
feels has an especially important application to the UK bioscience
sector and it is precisely the success of the bioscience sectorwhich
has been recognised by Government as one of the UK's strengthsthat
will allow the UK to fight its way back from the current economic
The UK bioscience sector creates 21,500 high
added value jobs and up to three times those numbers of jobs supported
by the sector in the broader economy.
This does not even take account of the impact of the commercial
sector in partnering with, and partly funding, research in universities,
institutes and the NHS. Lord Mandelson acknowledged this during
a speech in January 2009 when he said "Where are the jobs
going to come from? Well, I've spent the last two months arguing
that above all they need to come from a renaissance in UK manufacturing
and the expansion of the UK's knowledge-based industries... bioscience,
precision engineering and advanced electronic manufacturing. And,
as I have said, the world class services sector that these industries
need to be embedded in".
UK is genuinely grateful for everything that
this Labour Government has done to support t bioscience he sector
since 1997. From increased funding for scientific and medical
research, to introducing tough, world-leading legislation to combat
animal rights extremism, to most recently the establishing of
the new Office for Life Sciences led by the Science Minister and
former BIA Chair, Lord Drayson. Notwithstanding this support,
the current economic climate poses the biggest challenge ever
to face the sector. In November 2008 it was reported that over
a third of listed UK bioscience companies are running on less
than six months worth of cash
and in the current economic climate, this position has not improved.
Therefore, encouraging the right environment in the UK is now
more important than ever. The UK's bioscience sector faces some
distinct threats and challenges that must be overcome if it is
to continue to compete globally and fulfil its considerable potentialboth
in terms of improving outcomes for patients with new drugs and
treatments and making a significant contribution to the UK economy
as a leading example of Britain's growing knowledge economy.
The BIA has some major concerns, principally
around the role of Research Councils in funding research and development
undertaken by SMEs. The BIA understands that Research Councils
are bound by their spending rules to fund only academic research
and does not allow the funding of research undertaken by SMEs.
As a result there is a lack of Research Council involvement in
initiatives such as the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI)
in the same way as their US equivalents; therefore the value of
such initiatives is lost putting the UK at a distinct disadvantage.
Clarification of how Research Councils can make use of initiatives
such as SBRI to procure R&D from SMEs is needed.
There is real need for a shift in behaviour to ensure that British
science and technology are at the heart of the revolutions in
industrial production that will define the 21st century.
On the 1 April 2009 at an oral evidence session
to the House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and
Skills Committee hearing, Iain Gray (Chief Executive) of the Technology
Strategy Board (TSB) outlined their priorities over the next 12
months which included healthcare and regenerative medicine. It
is gratifying to see Government.
Recognising both the potential of regenerative
medicine and the importance of the wider bioscience sector to
the health and prosperity of the UK. It is widely accepted that
regenerative medicine offers the potential to deliver the next
major source of innovation in healthcare, with all the associated
benefits to patients such developments will bring. However, UK
companies operating in this area are experiencing real issues
in raising funds, such that groundbreaking research projects and
clinical trials are under serious threat (Annex 1). Extreme investor
nervousness is translating into lost opportunities for the UK.
In a sector heavily reliant on investment to drive research and
development, there is a desperate need for a willing partner to
support such globally ground-breaking work through these tough
times. Without support for commercialisation, this valuable and
groundbreaking research will be lost not just to UK plc but to
the UK's patient population.
Finally and crucially, a successful life sciences
sector needs more than a favourable financial, regulatory, and
clinical environment; skills and human capital lie at the heart
of successful innovation for public health. We need experienced
management and high calibre scientists to deliver new medicines.
Driving our commitment to work with Government is the reality
that a successful UK life sciences sector is a critical element
of the future knowledge economy and good for UK patients.
The BIA would strongly support any Government
initiatives that look to protect and build on the industry that
we have already in the UK, as well as ensuring that Government
investment in life sciences so far is safeguarded and that the
potential for economic benefit is fully exploited.
205 East of England International's Biotechnology
Overview has noted how that region's concentration of hi-tech
businesses has attracted "an unprecedented network of service
providers to the area", including venture capitalists, high-calibre
legal and accountancy practices, patent agents, management consultants
and clinical trial professionals. Back
KBC Peel Hunt Report "UK Biotech Sector"-25 November
Report from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory
Reform (BERR)-`Building Britain's Future-New Industry New Jobs'
April 2009. Back
The Commercial Development of Cell Therapy-Lessons for the Future?
Paul Martin, Ruth Hawksley, and Andrew Turner April 2009. http://communications.nottingham.ac.uk/SiteData/Root/File/Resources/Cell%20therapy%20survey%20-%20Part%201%20.pdf Back