I’ll have officially been CEO for a year this week so I thought I’d use my update to reflect on my time here.
My aim has been to make the BIA legitimate, effective, progressive and sustainable and I’m proud to say that we’ve moved forward in all these areas over the last twelve months.
The legitimacy of any trade association derives from its ability to have in membership, engage with and draw in expertise from the sector that it represents. I’m delighted that we’ve seen a 25% increase in membership in the last year, helping us draft 22 considered responses to government consultations to keep our sector at the forefront of government thinking. The quality of and commitment of key industry figures both on our board, expert committees and at our events has helped ensure the BIA is the visible authoritative voice for the sector.
It’s because of this I believe that we’ve been able to be highly effective in delivering policy outcomes for our community. On matters from the somewhat technical Treasury issues of whether R&D tax credits should show above the line (delivered in last year’s Autumn Statement), to more straightforward arguments for the continuation of the Biomedical Catalyst (announced in this Summer’s Spending Review) the BIA has delivered tangible results for the sector. Not everything is a quick win. Policy debates can seem to move at a glacial pace sometimes, evidenced by our ongoing work to deliver clinical trial regulation at an EU level that ensures the UK is a competitive place to do clinical trials. These issues require perseverance to be effective so I’m proud that we are recognised for our expertise in this area and are organising the only EU event on voluntary harmonisation procedures.
If trade associations don’t move with the times they run the danger of ossifying, especially in sectors undergoing change. This is one of the real attractions to me of this role. Biotech is changing. Pharma is changing. Health systems are changing. The scientific breakthrough of the genome is becoming useful for practical medical interventions. The IT revolution of big data and patient empowerment through social networking are reinventing the world we live in. Add in the aging population and the ongoing need for new therapies and I believe our sector is at the heart of what is changing fastest in our country in our lifetimes. Helping the sector navigate these changes is vital and in a small way I hope a number of new things we’ve introduced help in this direction. The inauguration of a new synbio committee to support that developing sector is a departure for the BIA that I hope puts us in a good place for the future. Similarly I hope offering more online opportunities to engage – via my monthly webinar or on our lively twitter feed and linked in groups – is in tune with the way busy modern executives engage. I also think working in partnership is the progressive way forward. Working together with One Nucleus, Bionow and BioPartner is what the sector wants us to do – and our joined up process to deliver a manifesto for the next parliament is a practical way to deliver what the sector needs for the future.
To do all this we need to be able to be around year on year with an attractive member offer, delivering member service. I am proud that we have the BIA on a stable and secure financial footing with an organisation right-sized to our income. The BIA was established in an era when biotech businesses had different funding, ambitions and goals. We now have bigger pharma, fewer UK public biotechs, more virtual and more private biotech companies. The service sector in UK biotech services not just UK companies but the globe and is a vital part of our ecosystem and membership. This means the BIA has a broader membership with different needs and capacities, which we need to reflect in our offering and requests for 2014. What unites us all is a commitment that as a sector together we are stronger and can accomplish more.
I have enjoyed my first year tremendously and would like to thank the BIA team, Board and membership for making it a successful one. I think we’ve done a lot together, there is a lot more to do and I look forward to working with you in the coming year. I’m conscious of the need to continually improve and welcome input as to how we can achieve that so would be delighted to hear your thoughts or views on what we should do more (and less) of in future.