Today in a series of important announcements the UK government put our sector at the centre of its aspiration for the UK’s future economy. I was able to discuss the Prime Minister’s personal commitment to this at a roundtable this lunchtime with her at the Wellcome Genome campus in Cambridge.

First the announcements:

  • A new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to back priority technologies – such as robotics and biotechnology – where the UK has the potential to turn strengths in research into a global industrial and commercial lead. The fund will be overseen by UK Research and Innovation
  • A review of current R&D tax incentives to ensure the global competitiveness of the UK as a home for scientists, innovators and tech investors
  • The government will publish a green paper on Industrial Strategy before the end of the year and seek industry views
  • The government will commit to investing an extra £2 billion a year by the end of this Parliament in R&D – to help keep the UK at the cutting edge of science and technology
  • A review of the Research and Development Tax Credit to make it more generous and easier to use
  • A new Patient Capital Review – led by the Treasury – that will examine how we can break down the obstacles to getting long-term investment into innovative firms. Sir Damon Buffini will chair the panel
  • A review to improve the Small Business Research Initiative, where government procures innovation, led by Cambridge entrepreneur David Connell, that will look at how we can increase its impact and give more innovators their first break

The Prime Minister has clearly listened to some of the sector’s hopes, concerns and aspirations and its fantastic to see the government’s commitment to R&D, the translation agenda, improvements to the fiscal environment, and on our core issue on funding of the need for patient and plentiful capital.

As ever with government announcements, it will take time for these commitments to become operational but its great to see such a positive direction of travel. From our discussion at lunchtime, the Prime Minister clearly understands and takes a personal interest in the need for patient capital – which she had worked on at the Bank of England earlier in her career. We will provide more detail and context in forthcoming weeks but its great to see the government picking up on many of our policy asks.

To provide context to Wednesday’s Autumn Statement, when the government will formally launch a consultation on Industrial Strategy, the BIA has put together a new briefing – The place of Bioscience in the UK’s Industrial Strategy. This document pulls together the BIA’s existing policy recommendations in one place and reviews what has made a difference in the past. In 2015, we published our ten-year vision for the UK to become the third global bioscience cluster. It set out the ambitions of the sector and the challenges that must be addressed to achieve them. The Industrial Strategy is an opportunity for the sector to work with the Government to put in place policies that will help achieve that Vision.

The briefing document launched today draws on this Vision, showing how the sector has benefitted from previous industrial strategy and looks at what opportunities and challenges there are for UK bioscience moving forward. The UK has a strong history in bioscience and successive governments of different political persuasions have built upon the efforts and progress of those before them. This continuity and commitment has put the UK in a position to rival the US bioscience clusters of Boston and San Francisco. Over the coming months, the BIA will work with its 300+ members and the Government to develop specific policies to support UK bioscience; these will be guided by the need for sector-specific policies that will unlock the its unique potential, and industry-wide policies, including investment in R&D and skills and creating the right fiscal and trade environment for businesses to thrive.

Last week we announced Immunocore Chief Business Officer Eva-Lotta Allan, Calchan CEO Brenda Reynolds and Polar Capital Partner – Healthcare Dan Mahony will join the BIA Board as new Directors from January 2017. In addition, Kevin Cox and Tim Watts were also re-elected for a term of three years. Many congratulations to all five.

Continuing on the theme of our Vision for 2025, one of the central pillars to its success is the development of talent. Diverse and refreshed boards are key to successful companies in our sector. At our recent UK Bioscience Forum we heard that success is seen when plc Boards are science-led, diverse, focused on the firm and well rewarded. We also saw the need for greater diversity within these leadership groups. It’s therefore great to see five of the BIA Board positions now filled by women. In 2017 the BIA and its Board will continue to promote new ways of enabling management talent to gain the experience they need to lead our sector. The BIA looks forward to building the next generation of management talent to reflect the breadth and strength of the ecosystem here in the UK.

On that note, the team were at BioBeat16 this week for the launch of the 50 Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness 2016. Held at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, the event launched the report, which recognises female pioneers and leaders in the healthcare industry and is produced by BioBeat, a programme to inspire the next wave of bio entrepreneurs and business leaders. Congratulations to all those who were listed in this year’s Movers and Shakers – including BIA Chair Jane Osbourn and newly elected Board member Eva-Lotta Allan.

There was a lively panel discussion around Stretching Biotech Pharma Entrepreneurship, which was chaired by Lynn Drummond of Venture Life Group and Infirst HEALTHCARE and featuring: Jane Osbourn of MedImmune; Inga Deakin of Imperial Innovations; Sally Waterman of Abzena; and Julie Walters of Raremark. Scientific collaborations, routes to funding and the dynamics of being a successful biotech entrepreneur were all covered.

It was interesting to see the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee publish their report on the implications of leaving the EU for science and research, which highlights many of the same issues we have raised through our Brexit work. On Wednesday the next meeting of the UK EU Life Sciences Steering Group will take place, following which we will be holding an update webinar for BIA and ABPI members on Friday 25 Nov at 12 noon. To register please click here.

This week the BIA team will be heading to Newcastle for the annual bioProcessUK conference. With over 300 delegates, it’s going to be a great event – look forward to seeing you there.