We were delighted to welcome Lord Drayson to the BIA’s UK Bioscience Forum to deliver a keynote speech. Having previously worked both within government and as a CEO within the sector, Lord Drayson promised to be an ideal speaker to bridge the policy and commercial considerations of our sector and on that front his speech did not disappoint.

Concurrent with an overall theme of celebrating success that emerged throughout the day, Lord Drayson was keen to emphasise the positive developments for the sector both in terms of policy progress and commercial success.

Lord Drayson echoed many other endorsements we heard during the UK Bioscience Forum about how good a place the UK is for life sciences: its science base, the clusters of world class companies around leading universities, the level of investment into research and the tax and fiscal environment. He congratulated the BIA on the publication of the UK Life Sciences Manifesto 2015-2020 and underlined how important the fiscal measures introduced by the current and previous government had been. He also welcomed the figures outlined in the BIA/EY State of the Nation report showing unprecedented levels of financing compared to recent years.

However his core message was that the UK biotech industry should be far from complacent and needs to build on the momentum it has already achieved. In a message that would be quoted throughout the day in the networking coffee and lunch breaks, he said “we need to add a nought or two to the jobs and growth we are achieving”.

He set out a number of challenges and ideas to build on where we are now, including:

  • Focus on transforming start-ups into seriously large companies
  • The role of university technology transfer departments in incubating such start-ups further and helping accelerate growth of these companies in their early years
  • Government work to redress the balance between short and long term investing; potentially introducing tax incentives for both investors and management teams to hold their shares for more than 10 years
  • Cultivate a management culture of “proactive evolution” within biotech businesses and ditching the “knitting” when circumstances change

His final vision statement “delivering better health, more jobs and more wealth for the nation” left us all with food for thought.