The most important news for UK bioscience companies from this week’s government Spending Review for 2015/16 was the confirmation of the continuation of the highly successful Biomedical Catalyst. This news, trailed the day before, is very welcome and follows a successful campaign, led by the BIA working with members and the sector, to impress upon policymakers at every level the need to re-fund the policy.
The Biomedical Catalyst is having a positive impact on the UK bioscience sector – demonstrably accelerating medical research projects and leveraging significant private capital (at least £55 million after rounds one and two). The scheme supports R&D in a wide variety of therapeutic areas and projects at every stage of development. The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and Medical Research Council continue to work openly and collaboratively with the sector and further funding represents a significant boost.
Continuation of the Biomedical Catalyst is contained within an extra £185 million announced for the TSB for 2015/16 which will include support for the UK’s Catapult centres. The exact funding split is not yet known but against a backdrop of £11.5 billion of public cuts the securing of additional money to support UK innovation is recognition of the TSB’s work and the strength of medical research translation.
Beyond the Biomedical Catalyst and the headlines about road, rail and energy infrastructure, a number of other announcements on science funding were made by the Treasury, the most relevant of which include:
- Preserving the science ring-fence for 2015/16 in cash terms at £4.6 billion.
- Increasing the science capital funding in real terms to £1.1 billion in 2015/16 and in line with inflation to 2016/17.
- Department of Health to provide £150 million of capital investment in 2015/16 to fund health research infrastructure in areas of dementia, genomics and imaging.
- Pharmavision – the creation of a large scale facility for the development of biologic medicines (this is the National Biologics Industry Innovation Centre – a policy issue the BIA’s Manufacturing Advisory Committee is closely involved in).
In a very constrained public funding environment the importance of showcasing the competitive strength the UK holds in life sciences remains important. The BIA will now work with members and the sector to maximise the value of the spending settlement.