On Tuesday, Innovate UK and the MRC published an independent evaluation of the Biomedical Catalyst -they have produced a summary of the report that draws out some of the key points below.
The Biomedical Catalyst (BMC) scheme officially launched in April 2012 and aimed to de-risk innovative science and accelerate the progress of novel products to market, enabling them to attract onward investment and “bridge the valley of death”. To deliver the scheme, Innovate UK was allocated £120m of additional funding over four years, which was aligned with matching MRC funds.
Since the launch, more than £250M has been jointly committed by MRC and Innovate UK leveraging significant amounts of private co-investment and increasing onward financing. Over 300 projects, including over 60 first in human studies of novel therapies and diagnostics, have been supported and more than £120m in matched private funding has been leveraged.
Information collated by MRC and Innovate UK indicates that funded academics and companies have subsequently realised more than £1.3bn through additional financing, licensing deals, or as a result of acquisition. With over 40% of the funded SMEs originating from the university sector, pull-through of academic research into a commercial setting is being facilitated.
Independent evaluation scope and design
In 2014, Innovate UK and the MRC jointly commissioned an independent evaluation of the BMC conducted by Ipsos Mori. The key aims of the baseline phase of the evaluation, which has now been completed, were to review the BMC delivery process, to provide a baseline measure of assessment, and to set out a clear framework for future evaluation of impact. The resulting report provides a summary of the emerging and surrogate impacts visible in early 2015 for the first six rounds of funding.
The second phase of the evaluation is scheduled to begin in 2017 and will build upon the baseline study to report on the outcomes and impacts realised since launch. Importantly, the framework recognises that the development of life sciences products and services takes many years and that the maximal impact of the BMC is unlikely to be realised even by 2017.
Baseline evaluation findings
The balance of opinion canvassed by Ipsos Mori was that the processes adopted in the delivery of the programme were highly effective in supporting its aims. Applicants agreed that the application process was straightforward and encouraged a high quality of submissions. High levels of ‘penetration’ into the biopharma and academic communities were reported, indicating that marketing and promotion of the scheme has been successful. However, it was noted that there is potential to improve outreach to the MedTech community and emerging sectors such as digital health.
Notwithstanding that the majority of projects are in their earliest phases, and so findings should be considered to be provisional, the outcomes of the evaluation are broadly positive. Significantly, projects awarded funding reported accelerated technical progress. The report also suggests that the Biomedical Catalyst ‘badge’ has acted as an external ‘stamp of approval’, helping awardees to raise additional follow-on funding. The evidence also indicates that the BMC may have stimulated companies to switch their R&D focus from projects with a low risk/low return profile to projects with a high risk/higher return.
The Biomedical Catalyst has efficiently provided support to both academically and commercially led research and development, being uniquely positioned as the only non-dilutive response mode funding for UK life sciences SMEs. Although too early to draw any firm conclusions on ultimate impact, delivery of the scheme has been highly effective to date and is already accelerating the pace of product development and leveraging significant further investment into the life sciences sector.