Science and TechnologyWritten evidence submitted by Babraham Bioscience Technologies Limited

The Babraham Research Campus, south of Cambridge, is distinct in being the location of a publicly-funded bioscience research institute—the BBSRC’s supported Babraham Institute, and the home to 30 early-stage biomedical companies. The aim of the campus is to both undertake world-leading biomedical research within the Babraham Institute and to provide the infrastructure for and support the culture which maximises the collaboration between the academic community and the commercial organisations on site. In the 2011 budget, HM Treasury announced a £44 million capital investment at Babraham for the development of further commercial facilities to promote UK science jobs and growth.

The Babraham Research Campus is operated by the Babraham Institute (BI) and Babraham Bioscience Technologies (BBT)—the wholly owned trading arm of BI with responsibility—amongst other knowledge exchange and commercialisation activities—for providing the services and infrastructure to the companies located on the campus. This submission is jointly provided from both organisations.

We wish to comment primarily upon item 5 from the Terms of Reference.

1.Capital vs Recurrent Funding: We are much heartened by the approach the Government has made in supporting national infrastructure projects such as the capital project at the Babraham Research Campus. We remain concerned, however, that solely capital funding can only provide part of the solution, and can lead to less than optimum impact. There is a need for Government to consider the recurrent costs essential to maintain the infrastructure created. It is important to identify support (particularly in the early years) for the sustainability of facilities. This is particularly evident when funding is made available to purchase high-value highly specialised equipment; an additional need is to be able to provide the trained staff to operate maintain and analyse the output from equipment use. This would maximise any impact.

2.No one size fits all: Different sectors have different challenges and where some of those sectors are concentrated or clustered in particular geographic areas there may be different needs. The issue mentioned in (1) above is pertinent. For example recruitment and retention of staff in Cambridge in Bioscience is very different from that of recruiting in the North West for a similar role.

3.Recruitment: There continues to be shortage of UK-based staff with the relevant experience. Hence we continue to need to look outside the UK for essential staff. This is particularly relevant with regard to the issues of non-EU visa regulations.

4.Training: In taking a longer term view of this problem, we welcome any strategies that the UK Government would consider to encourage and support STEM careers particular at the school-leaver and A level stage of education. We are particularly interested in the introduction of apprentice schemes into the Life Sciences.

5.Likelihood of Failure: The “Value-of-Death” is about managing the risk of failure. The public sector needs to intervene where the private sector is unwilling to invest unilaterally—that does mean that there is an inherent risk of failure: that risk needs to be shared. To support Universities and Institutes in investing in early stage opportunities ( alone or with others) would be helpful.

6.Research Council’s Boundaries: We suggest that the boundaries between current Research Council remits need to be more flexible to allow research to become thematic rather than functionally based so as to more efficiently reap reward from public investment in translational research. For example, an ageing theme that seamlessly crosses NIHR, MRC and BBSRC boundaries would allow researchers to progress opportunities from early-stage biology through to therapeutic considerations without the worry that remit dictates the focus of funded research. The present strict remit definitions prevent, for example, the logical and necessary evolution and seamless progression of BBSRC-funded research to support therapeutic activities; there is a need to manage the BBSRC:MRC interface more proactively to meet the needs of industry. The same may apply to the BBSRC:NERC interface. Internal concerns about ownership of particular research areas by one Research Council or another and consequent reluctance to risk a perception that one Council is “straying” from remit, create a vacuum at the interface.

7.Small Business Relief: We are sure that you will have a number of submissions regarding the complexity of business rates, particularly where multiple units are assessed and the total remains limited to being less than £18,000 in order to qualify for Small Business Relief.

February 2012

Prepared 11th March 2013