UKBSF_unlockingglobalmarketsA flash back to October 2014 today, as we recap another presentation from our UK Bioscience Forum. The ‘Unlocking Global Markets’ session highlighted some of the international opportunities available for UK companies, featuring a diverse selection of countries, from the heavyweights of India and China, to the smaller (and closer to home) Belgium and Sweden.

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) works with domestic businesses to ensure their success in international markets and to encourage the best overseas companies to look at the UK as their global partner of choice. Mark Treherne, Chief Executive Officer, UKTI Life Science Investment Organisation, kicked off the session by highlighting some of the reasons why the UK itself is a valued global partner.

The UK’s increasingly integrated biomedical ecosystem is underpinned by a number of supportive factors. A supportive business environment, an open and flexible regulatory framework, simplified industry access points, and global connectivity and export potential, all contribute to the international appeal of the UK. Alongside an effective government funding framework for innovation, with initiatives such as the Biomedical Catalyst, the UK also leads Europe in innovation capital raised (US$467 million) and is second to Germany in the amount of Venture Capital raised, further establishing the UK as an attractive global partner.

But what opportunities exist in overseas markets, and how do we access them?


According to Mark, the generics-centric Indian pharmaceutical market is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12.1% to reach US$45 billion in 2020, making it hard to ignore this growing overseas market. From the in-licensing of new molecules, to the exporting of equipment, technical consultancy and data analytics, a number of opportunities exist for UK companies looking to expand their international capabilities in India.


Like India, China is also a rapidly growing market full of opportunity and is set to become the world’s largest pharmaceutical market by 2020. China has over 3000 biotechnology companies and the current value of biologic drugs accounts for approximately 20% of the country’s total drug market. The vast Chinese market has opportunities in a variety of areas, as highlighted by Assistant Director of UKTI China, Clive Allcorn, from genetic engineering to stem cells to diagnostics.

However there are drawbacks. Chinese institutional investors are reluctant to commit a lot of money into early stage research as they know little of the likely timescales, failure rates and hence risks. VC firms from western countries are entering the market and can sometimes help to bridge this gap. Clive also mentioned that IP and resources can be issues in China, but this is becoming increasingly better regulated and moving in a positive direction.


Gert Wauters, Senior Trade and Investment Advisor in Brussels, commented that Belgium is not generally high on the list when looking to do business overseas or export, but it should be considered as a good starting point. Belgium has a similar environment to that in the UK and a good track record with foreign investments (for example Lonza, Pfizer and GSK). The country also boasts an excellent academic research base, with a strong reputation with clinical trials. Particular opportunities highlighted by Gert focussed on traditional areas such as CNS, cardiovascular, oncology, vaccines and immunology. Indeed, one of the main hurdles was thought to be a lack of innovation in pharma.


Another somewhat unlikely candidate, the position of Sweden as a geographical hub to the Nordic region is just one of the benefits of exporting to the country, according to Amanda Svensson Falk, Trade Advisor in Stockholm. Sweden also has the highest per capita spending in Europe on research and development within Life Sciences, with a national focus on eHealth – another reason to take a second look at the opportunities available, which focus on medical innovation, drug discovery and pharmaceutical commercialisation.

Pursuing international opportunities – where to start?

It can be difficult to know where to begin when pursuing opportunities in international markets. Mark demonstrated how UKTI can help companies make the first step, by providing introductions to the regional network, identifying relevant contacts and organising stakeholder events at the Embassy, as well as providing market and sector reports for the relevant country. These efforts help to ensure success in unlocking global markets, both big and small, and expanding the reach of UK companies across Europe and around the globe.

For more information, visit the UKTI website