Science and TechnologyWritten evidence submitted by RSPCA

Background

In December 2011 the Government published an Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth, setting out how it will work with business and the knowledge base to underpin private sector led growth. In the same week, the Government published its strategy for the life sciences, outlining how it will take action to make the UK a world-leading place for life sciences investment.

The Science and Technology Select Committee subsequently launched an inquiry into how the Government and other organisations could improve the commercialisation of research.1

The inquiry was launched with a list of questions on practical issues related to gaining funding for commercialisation of research:

1.What are the difficulties of funding the commercialisation of research, and how can they be overcome?

2.Are there specific science and engineering sectors where it is particularly difficult to commercialise research? Are there common difficulties and common solutions across sectors?

3.What, if any, examples are there of UK-based research having to be transferred outside the UK for commercialisation? Why did this occur?

4.What evidence is there that Government and Technology Strategy Board initiatives to date have improved the commercialisation of research?

5.What impact will the Government’s innovation, research and growth strategies have on bridging the valley of death?

6.Should the UK seek to encourage more private equity investment (including venture capital and angel investment) into science and engineering sectors and if so, how can this be achieved?

7.What other types of investment or support should the Government develop?

RSPCA Comments

The RSPCA does not have any specific comments on the individual questions. However, the Society does have concerns relating to the commercialisation of life sciences research in general, wherever this has the potential to impact on the welfare of animals or promote their commercial exploitation. These are detailed below:

The RSPCA recognises the potential economic benefit of the commercialisation of UK research. However, the Society believes that increased efforts to commercialise research should not come at the expense of ethical or animal welfare considerations particularly with respect to the use of laboratory animals in regulated procedures. Animals are sentient beings with intrinsic worth, not tools for research or commodities for commercialisation. Thus, when any new technology is developed a rigorous assessment of the ethical and animal welfare issues should be performed—consideration of the question of “what should be done” is as important as consideration of “what can be done”.

Funding allocation within the biomedical sciences should require demonstrable implementation of the Three Rs.2 The ‘Investing in UK Health and Life Sciences prospectus’, published in December 2011, states that the UK government will introduce a £180 million Biomedical Catalyst fund to aid the commercial development of new technology. If this fund required the highest standards of animal welfare, and research into alternatives to the use of animals, it would back up the government pledge made in July 2011 to work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research.

Additionally, it should be ensured that a move towards increased commercialisation of research does not reduce reporting or sharing of important technical innovations that impact on the application of the Three Rs in research that uses animals. For example, a new in vitro technique could be developed which could replace a research method that currently uses animals. If this were to become a proprietary technology, it could prevent the wider research community from using the technology and therefore the opportunity to reduce animal use would be lost.

February 2012

1 http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/science-and-
technology-committee/inquiries/parliament-2010/role-of-the-private-sector/

2 The Three Rs were introduced in 1959 by William Russell and Rex Burch in The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique. They defined the principles of: Replacement—methods which avoid or replace the use of animals wherever possible; Reduction—minimising the numbers of animals used, for example by improving the experimental design and statistical analysis used in a study; Refinement—improving experimental procedures, and other factors affecting animals such as housing and care, to reduce suffering and improve welfare throughout the animals’ lives.

Prepared 11th March 2013