2014 new members_600x300A crowd of the great and the good, including the BIA, gathered in Westminster last Friday to hear Vince Cable’s thoughts on science and innovation investment. However what we had expected to be a summary of the new Science and Innovation Strategy turned out to be more of a legacy speech from the Business Secretary of progress made so far within this Parliament and challenges and opportunities for the next five years. You can read our analysis of the speech here.

In his speech, Cable was clear on the importance of translating scientific endeavour into commercial success. On investment in science and innovation, Cable highlighted how this has proven to be economically productive, however if the UK wants to remain ambitious and competitive it should be at least aiming to achieve the OECD average of 2.5% of GDP invested in R&D. It would be a joint challenge for industry and government to work out how it would find that additional investment.

On innovation, Cable said he still thinks there is scope to build the innovation base in SMEs and listed a number of ways the coalition government has tried to support innovation including investment in Innovate UK, focus on sector specific industrial strategies (including life sciences), and investment in Catapults – hinting that more would be announced soon.

Usefully on Thursday night I chaired a great discussion hosted by AECOM and One Nucleus on what science infrastructure we need. What struck me most was that there seems to be no strategy linking private investment with that from the public sector – so no truly national overview. Lots is going on and up – Pirbright, Stevenage, Cambridge. Some is coming down – Horsham, old bits of Sandwich. There is a desire for some new capacity (Kings Cross London). What is clear is that the UK’s ecosystem approach is providing opportunity and some capacity with efficiency here provided by the market rather than Chinese Communist style 10 year planning.

We look forward to hearing the new Science and Innovation Strategy and will aim to provide an overview for members once announced.

The Medical Innovation Bill received its Report Stage debate in the House of Lords on Friday. The BIA has been briefing Peers on our views on this legislation and were mentioned alongside other organisations by Lord Turnberg. Peers considered amendments on whether a doctor should obtain full support from other qualified doctors before beginning innovative treatment, and whether further guidance and explanation should be given to a patient as information became available. A number of amendments tabled by Lord Saatchi were approved and the latest version of the Bill can be found here. In response to an opposition amendment on the need to record outcomes from innovative use, Baroness Jolly responded for the government stating, “a stand-alone clause that would require doctors to register the results of innovative treatment would widen the scope of the Bill to cover all innovation. This Private Member’s Bill is not the right vehicle to make provision that would relate to all innovation”. In terms of what happens next, it is as yet not fully clear, but government support suggests the Bill has a good chance of proceeding in the House of Commons. That said, Dr Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP, GP and Chair of the Health Select Committee was incredibly critical of the Bill in a patient safety debate last week, stating that the Bill is “fundamentally flawed”.

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Last Thursday I was pleased to announce Antibiotic Research UK as the official BIA charity for 2015. Antibiotic resistance is a major global problem with significant implications for public health, highlighted by Jim O’Neill that same day as part of his review into the matter. It’s an issue the BIA are committed to supporting, having pushed for it to be a priority in the newly formed International Council of Biotech Associations, therefore we’re delighted to be able to support the work of Antibiotic Research UK and looking forward to working with them in 2015.

As Christmas hits next week, we’re taking a look back at the best of 2014 in today’s Newscast. Our membership continues to grow with 41 companies joining the BIA since January – depicted in the picture above. A warm welcome to you all.

We’ve hosted some fantastic events through 2014. Celebrating the BIA’s 25th anniversary year, we held our inaugural Annual Lecture and also hosted the bioProcessUK conference for the first time. It’s great to be able to introduce new events alongside our flagship favourites. One of the highlights for 2014 was winning Conference of the Year at the Trade Association Forum Awards back in July for the UK Bioscience Forum – a great achievement we’re all very proud of.

Our three most popular blogs highlight some of the hottest topics for the sector in 2014, including early access. Last January I attended the Empower Access to Medicines campaign meeting, where Earl Howe discussed the possibility of introducing a “promising innovation designation”. Fast forward 12 months and the Early Access to Medicines Scheme is up and running and the first PIM designation has been awarded. The progress we’ve made in the last year is truly encouraging and I’m looking forward to seeing how things progress in 2015.

On that note, I wish you Merry Christmas from all at the BIA and we’ll be back in the New Year.