The BIA’s UK CEO and Investor Forum, held at Down Hall in Hertfordshire on 10-11 July, was bigger than ever with more than 90 senior sector attendees. In the first of three posts, the BIA reflects on some key themes from the event.

Patrick Verheyen in conversation with Steve Bates

Patrick Verheyen in conversation with Steve Bates

The conference started with Partrick Verheyen, head of Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) innovation centre in London, as the guest for the “fireside chat” with BIA CEO Steve Bates.

As part of its strategy to identify early stage innovation, whether at academic institutions or in life science companies, J&J is establishing four innovation centres, in London, Boston, California and Shanghai.

Patrick discussed the company’s strategy and goals for the centre in London. He said J&J recognises that innovation happens globally and that one of the key hotspots with high quality academic research, clinical institutions, companies, entrepreneurs and government support is the South of England. He said the company will use London as a hub, not only for the UK, but also to reach into Europe. Another reason Patrick said he likes London is that it is conveniently located for getting back to Boston.

The innovation centres are fully aligned with J&J’s internal focus and Patrick said the aim is to surround themselves with the best people in the world. The centres have a team of science and technology experts from J&J’s areas of interest.

Patrick said he wants the centre to facilitate an exchange of people, as well as money, and would like to see J&J people working in academic labs. The goal for J&J’s four innovation centres is for each centre to deliver, in 3-4 years time, at least one clinical project per year with safety and efficacy data. He added that ideally he would like to see his team helping to establish new companies here in the UK.

Finally, Patrick commented that the amount of science in the UK and Boston area is probably the same. However, Boston has the big bioscience companies lining up to work with the academics in the area, more serial entrepreneurs, more examples to learn from and more competition. He doesn’t see companies lining up to work with academia in the UK. While he thinks it will take a bigger effort to help make a strong community here Patrick believes there is a bigger opportunity.