Publication of the UK "Life Sciences Industrial Strategy" report

September 2017

A new government-commissioned strategy report was published on 30 August, setting out the life sciences sector's vision for its future and putting forward recommendations to government for promoting the sector's long-term success. The report is considered by industry as a key element of the UK’s plans for its future outside the European Union.

The life sciences sector is central to the UK economy, generating £64 billion of turnover and employing over 233,000 scientists and staff. It also has huge potential for growth in the coming decades, with new opportunities presented by demographic changes as well as technological innovations and new therapeutic approaches. Through investment and support to leverage the UK's existing scientific and manufacturing capabilities, the strategy seeks to boost economic growth in the sector and enable the UK to retain its competitive edge post-Brexit.

The report was authored by Professor Sir John Bell, with input from across all components of the industry as well as from the charity sector and NHS.

The key recommendations can be summarised as:

  • Health Advanced Research Programme (HARP): establishing a coalition of funders to undertake large research infrastructure projects and high risk 'moonshot programmes', and supporting upcoming scientific platforms such as genomics and AI, with the aim of creating 2 to 3 entirely new industries over the next 10 years.
  • Reinforcing the UK science offer: further investment in basic science – including increasing spending on R&D from 1.6% of GDP to 2.6% over the next 5 years – and improving clinical trial capabilities, to enable the UK to compete globally in attracting discovery science programmes and clinical trials and ensuring continued access to world-class scientists.
  • Growth and infrastructure: optimising the UK's fiscal and tax environment to encourage upscaling of life sciences SMEs, with the aim of creating 4 UK companies valued at >£20 billion market cap in the next 10 years; supporting the growth of the UK's life sciences clusters and networks; and attracting substantial capital investment in life sciences manufacturing and export capabilities.
  • NHS Collaboration: adoption and broadening of the Accelerated Access Review proposals to streamline the routes to market for new products – thus making the UK an attractive market in which to operate and launch – and provide patients with quicker access to innovative new treatments and technologies; and encouraging collaboration between the NHS and industry for the benefit of UK patients.
  • Data: establishing 2 to 5 Digital Innovation Hubs providing data access 3 to 5 million people, and other initiatives to improve the establishment of and access to national health datasets.
  • Skills: ensuring a migration system that allows recruitment and retention of the best international talent; and developing and delivering a reinforced skills action plan across the NHS, commercial and academic sectors based on a gap analysis of key skills for science, including support for entrepreneurship training and strengthening Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education.
  • Regulation:continuing to work closely with the EMA post-Brexit, and retaining a science-friendly regulatory regime.

This is the first of five sector reports commissioned following the launch of the government's industrial strategy green paper in January. The report is expected to be followed this autumn by a "sector deal" setting out the government's concrete spending commitments and policies. The full sector report has been published online.

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