After a bitterly-fought election campaign, the Labour MP for Tooting, Sadiq Khan, emerged late on Friday night as the new Mayor of London.
With St George’s Hospital on his South London patch, Sadiq will know first-hand what a difference medical innovation can make to people’s lives and his manifesto rightly recognised the great potential of the capital’s life sciences industry. Despite this, Sadiq’s plans for London gave little away about what he will do to support the sector.
An important place to start will be renewing City Hall funding for MedCity. Since its creation by Boris Johnson in 2014, the independent organisation has been hugely successful at bringing together stakeholders from industry, academia, the NHS, and City investors to drive forward London’s life sciences agenda. However, it is in its last year of funding committed by Boris so its future is currently unknown.
Sadiq can also drive the life sciences agenda forward by working with the BIA and others to raise the profile of the sector among global investors and explore innovative new ways to get more finance flowing into young and growing businesses. The European Union could be a valuable source of funding to support this.
Unlike his leading rival, Zac Goldsmith, Sadiq supports Britain remaining in the EU. The UK’s life sciences sector is also overwhelmingly in favour of staying in and will be looking to Sadiq to champion this cause in the next six weeks running up to the referendum.
Housing was a key issue in the election campaign and all eyes will be on Sadiq to deliver the 50,000 new homes he has promised. This will help London’s life sciences businesses, whose 21,500 employees currently face restrictively-high rents, making London less attractive to potential new employees. Science companies also face a shortage of affordable space, particularly lab space, according to a recent MedCity report. This was echoed at the BIA’s recent breakfast discussion on the Mayoral elections, held three weeks ago.
We expect that a new Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise will take the policy lead on such an issue. This role was fulfilled by Kit Malthouse until he left to become MP for North West Hampshire. We hope someone with an equally-strong grasp of the importance of the life sciences sector is appointed by Sadiq soon to take forward that work. His manifesto also promised a Business Advisory Board to provide guidance and insight to find the solutions to London’s growth challenges and to provide feedback on policy.
The BIA enjoyed a productive relationship with Boris Johnson during his time in City Hall and continues to work closely with officials in the Greater London Authority. We are looking forward to building even stronger links with Sadiq to help him in his mission to “be the most pro-business Mayor yet”.
Elections for the devolved administrations
The Scottish National Party won a third term in power in Scotland but fell short of achieving a majority. Perhaps the biggest surprise result was the Conservative Party beating Labour to form the official opposition.
The SNP manifesto highlighted the strength of the Scottish life sciences industry, and promised a STEM education strategy and a new “Innovation Prize, with an annual award for the collaborative project that produces the optimum commercialisation from investment activity”.
In Wales Labour held on to power but like the SNP failed to win an overall majority. Their manifesto didn’t mention any specific measures to support the life sciences but did promise a “New Treatment Fund” and a tax cut for small businesses.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin remain the two biggest parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly after Thursday’s election. However, negotiations over a programme for government are not expected to begin at Stormont until later this week.