Last Thursday 35 senior BIA members, representing a wide range of companies researching and developing innovative technologies and products for patient benefit, attended the BIA’s 14th annual Parliament Day. We met with 20 senior policymakers including key Ministers such as David Willetts, David Gauke and Oliver Letwin, Shadow Ministers including Liam Byrne and Luciana Berger, and other key senior policymakers from bodies including the Department of Health, NICE and NHS England.

Parliament Day helps policymakers put a face to bioscience and allows senior executives running UK companies to represent their sector directly to decision makers in and around Westminster. The key aim this year was to advocate on a number of focused issues that require addressing.

Access to finance is a key theme and members used the opportunity to articulate the need for effective and supportive government policies at every stage of the bioscience ‘funding ladder’. The Biomedical Catalyst in particular has been an incredibly impactful policy and the UK retains a highly competitive fiscal regime including such provisions as the Patent Box and R&D tax credits. However, to ensure that positive action in one part of the value chain is not undermined by inaction in another, bioscience executives outlined two key policy themes:

  • Citizens Innovation Funds (CIFs) – the BIA’s fully costed proposal would allow for a much needed alternative source of private growth capital and allow the public to support innovative UK companies. The proposal is based on the highly successful French FCPI scheme where for every one Euro spent by the French Exchequer in foregone income tax, five times as much private capital has been raised. There was a number of in-depth discussions with policymakers regarding CIFs at Parliament Day, leading to a number of follow-up actions to progress the policy further.
  • The UK public markets – members outlined the need for the UK public markets to provide a viable and sustainable route to the larger amounts of private capital needed to fund later stage clinical development activities. It was pointed out that a number of UK companies have successfully listed in the US while the UK markets remain challenging and a number of possible solutions, including increasing analyst coverage, were discussed to address this.

Aside from access to finance issues, the BIA continued to press for the introduction of a centrally funded and reimbursed Earlier Access to medicines Scheme, as proposed in the Strategy for UK Life Sciences. Members took the opportunity to clearly outline the possible benefits of the Scheme if it were introduced in such a way, particularly to emerging bioscience companies developing innovative products.