Across the capital city today, Londoners are voting to decide who will succeed Boris Johnson as London Mayor. With London a key hub for the UK’s life science sector, the topic was the subject up for discussion at our most recent BIA Breakfast, kindly hosted by Taylor Wessing. Read on for highlights from the event and do keep an eye on the blog following the announcement of the new mayor for our take on the implications for the industry.
With a globally leading stock exchange, an internationally renowned regulator in the MHRA, some of the top universities in the world and important developments such as the Francis Crick Institute, London is a key hub for the life science sector on both a national and international level – a role which continues to build and grow.
As Boris Johnson’s time as Mayor of London drew to a close, our panel of speakers from across the industry provided their perspectives on what the new mayor could and should do for life sciences in London.
As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Life Sciences and previous Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise, Kit Malthouse emphasised the importance of the life science sector to London’s economy. Coming out of the financial crash, there was a need for London to diversify its offering and, with its huge potential, the life science sector was recognised as an ideal candidate. During his time in City Hall, Kit saw the creation and launch of MedCity. Developed as a freestanding organisation, MedCity was created to live beyond the mayoral term and has been enormously successful.
Also present on the panel, Sarah Haywood, CEO, MedCity, was able to provide an update on the achievements of the organisation since its launch. MedCity brings together a number of stakeholders from across business, academia and the NHS – a vital role on which she hopes to see continued strong support from the new mayor. Kit also identified an important role for the incoming mayor in opening up the NHS to be more innovative and welcoming to private sector research.
Sarah also highlighted the importance of utilising the capital city as an entry point and magnet to attract companies and investment to the whole UK sector.
The two major priorities for MedCity revolve around unlocking space and capital across London. Since its launch two years ago, the organisation has been working to connect spaces across the city, something to be continued over the next mayoral term. In terms of unlocking the liquidity that exists in London, MedCity has been working closely with like-minded organisations and the London Stock Exchange to shout about the great opportunities that exist in life sciences to the general investment community. She also sees a key role for new Mayor in championing that work.
From an industry perspective, biotech entrepreneur Keith Powell discussed the lack of interest in the sector from the two leading mayoral candidates – a shame considering the tremendous research base in and around the capital and something the BIA and industry will need to address with the new mayor once elected. Jonny Ohlsen, CEO, Touchlight Genetics also highlighted the massive opportunity available to grow and nurture the next generation of science businesses in and around London.
According to Keith Powell, London ranks 10th in terms of cities investing in life sciences – he suggested an investment fund of £10M to support businesses is what is needed to help the industry reach its full potential.
Discussions in the Q&A also raised the importance of accessing capability within London, alongside the science base and capital, in order to transfer a product from innovation to commercialisation.