Summer-Networking-Evening_banners_findoutmoreWith 17 days to go, the run up to General Election continues apace. Our sector video this week is from the British Science Association who have teamed up with journalist Susan Watts, former science editor of Newsnight, to question science spokespeople from each of the main political parties on the changes their policies would bring about if their party were to come to power. The Observer has also published an interesting article from Athene Donald of the University of Cambridge, which questions why science is so low on the agenda in the discourse leading up to the general election.

Following on from the Labour manifesto which I commented on last Monday, last week also saw the publication of the Conservative, Lib Dem, Green and UKIP manifestos and today the SNP have released theirs. Notable commitments so far have been:

  • Conservatives – support Britain’s modern industrial strategies such as the Life Sciences strategy, direct further resources towards the Eight Great Technologies, create more R&D hubs, hold an in-out referendum on membership of the EU by the end of 2017, spend at least an additional £8bn by 2020 over and above inflation to fund and support the NHS’s action plan, implement findings of the Innovative Medicines and Medical Technology (Accelerated Access) Review, take forward recommendations of the independent review into antibiotic resistance, foster research, innovation and jobs in the life science industry
  • Liberal Democrats – continue to develop the industrial strategy, remain a committed member of the EU so the UK can complete the Single Market, continue to allow high-skill immigration to support key sectors of the economy, aim to double innovation and research spending across the economy (supported by greater public funding on a longer timescale), more ‘Catapult’ innovation and technology centres, continue to ring fence the science budget and ensure that by 2020 both capital and revenue spending increase at least in line with inflation, reinstate post-study work visas for STEM graduates, expand the British Business Bank to tackle the shortage of equity capital and providing long-term capital for medium-sized businesses, deliver the £8bn England’s NHS leaders say is needed to keep it strong
  • Green Party – support an in-out referendum but remain committed to EU membership, allow foreign students to work for two years in the UK after graduation, immediately increase overall NHS budget by £12bn a year to overcome the current funding crisis, increase the overall NHS budget annually in real terms by 1.2 per cent to take account of the ageing population, stop the breeding of and use of genetically altered animals, cease Government funding for animal experimentation, support a moratorium on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in all agricultural systems
  • UKIP – an In/Out referendum on EU membership as soon as possible, seeking ‘continued access on free-trade terms to the EU’s single market’, an Australian-style points based immigration system, an additional £3bn a year into the NHS in England for frontline patient care, UK students taking approved degrees in STEM subjects exempt from tuition fee repayment
  • SNP – establish a new Ministerial led Innovation Forum, £1 million Innovation Challenge Fund to help address major societal and industrial challenges, support ambitious collaborations between universities, businesses and others to capitalise on Scotland’s world-class research including through a network of eight Innovation Centres, oppose a referendum on membership of the EU, seek reintroduction of the post study work visa, vote for an increase in NHS spending across the UK of £24 billion by 2020-21
  • (And for completeness) Labour – a new long-term funding policy framework for science and innovation, strengthening the UK’s relationship with the EU, the most competitive rate of Corporation Tax in the G7, a ‘sensible commissioning framework’ for the NHS

Also on policy, we’ve recently published the latest ‘Influencing and Shaping Our Sector’ update for Q1, covering our work and key achievements in policy and regulatory affairs from January to April – including the final Budget of this Parliament, the latest on access to medicines, and related developments at an EU level. You can download the full report here.

On Friday we submitted the BIA’s response to the Nurse Review of Research Councils. While we often focus on policy issues directly affecting industry, the research councils – particularly the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Medical Research Council (MRC) and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) – are an essential component of the UK’s life sciences ecosystem. Our response highlighted their vital role and noted that a dramatic restructuring of the research councils could be a misstep, destabilising the current system, and therefore any proposed changes must be on a rigorous evidence basis.  We also commended the Biomedical Catalyst and called for its continuation, noted the potential of the Catapult Centres to boost translational work, and argued that industry input would be valuable in prioritising both academic and industrial strategy related funding.

It’s a busy week for events with both SynBioBeta, the ABPI’s annual conference and the Anglonordic Life Science Conference taking place in London. This is the third year SynBioBeta will be returning to London to showcase the best of synthetic biology. John Cumbers, founder of SynBioBeta, has written us a guest blog reflecting on the explosive growth of synbio since he launched the conference three years ago and gives some details on what to expect from this year’s offering – you can read the blog here. Follow @BIA_UK on Twitter for our live updates from the conference and #SBB15 for all the best bits. We’ll also be popping into the ABPI and the Anglonordic Life Science Conference on Thursday – again, check out our Twitter for any updates and follow @Anglonordic. More information and any highlights from these events in next week’s update.

If you’ve been considering applying for the EuropaBio SME Award I’d urge you to go ahead, as the application deadline has been extended to this Friday 24 April.

Best

Steve