In this week’s CEO update: what does last week’s Budget mean for biotech; an international outlook; BIA Industrial Strategy workshop; S&T Committee report of their inquiry into IP and TTOs; and BIA in Manchester this week…

Putting Britain at the “cutting edge of the global economy” was the theme of the Chancellor’s first and last Spring Budget. However, there were few giveaways after an Autumn Statement last November that delivered significant new funding for research and innovation. Some of the key announcements for the life science sector included the allocation of the first tranche of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, investment in STEM talent and administrative changes to the R&D tax regime.

The Chancellor is right to focus on keeping the UK at the cutting edge of the global economy by investing in biotechnology and skills. The £270 million to keep the UK at the forefront of disruptive technologies like biotech, gives us a real opportunity to lead the world in new industries such as advanced therapy manufacturing – highly specialised production techniques that allow us to use cells and genes to treat a wide range of diseases from cancer to dementia.

The Chancellor also announced £90 million for 1,000 PhD places in Science, Engineering, Technology and Maths (STEM) subjects and £200 million to support new fellowships for early and mid-career researchers, in areas identified as important to the industrial strategy (including biotechnology and medicines manufacturing); £50 million of this will be for programmes to attract “top global talent”. Industry must be involved in the design and delivery of training to ensure these investments properly allow the UK to stay at the cutting edge of the global economy.


The review of R&D tax credits provided an opportunity to enhance the system to put it head and shoulders above other highly-competitive regimes, such as Belgium and France. It’s a shame the government hasn’t taken that opportunity but we are pleased that it listened to the BIA’s call to reduce the admin burden for businesses claiming R&D tax reliefs.

As promised by the Chancellor himself, this was a low-key Budget. However, it’s great to hear him put biotechnology first in the list of areas the industrial strategy will support. We are working hard in partnership with the government and our members to ensure public investment and support is well-targeted to grow our sector. The fruits of this are paying off with investment today to implement the proposals of the Advanced Therapies Manufacturing Action Plan, which the BIA helped produce and it was great to hear Virginia Acha of the ABPI making these points on Radio 4 this morning.

Having had the chance to understand more of the Chancellor’s thinking last week, I think he is fully committed to both the scale up agenda for UK SME’s and leading the world in free trade – so I think we need to watch carefully any government reaction to, or intervention in, acquisitions of UK owned companies in strategic sectors for implications for our own sector. Finally, it’s worth noting that the robust growth of the UK economy reported today combined with the reducing corporation tax rate and commitments to invest in sciences and innovation – including the Biomedical Catalyst – demonstrates that the UK remains a highly competitive place to invest in and grow biotechnology companies.

Read our analysis in full on the blog here.

I joined BiotechCanada colleagues last week for their Investor conference. It was great to build the network (which already has strong links) , and understand that the Canadian biotech community faces several of the same challenges we do. Talent, access to finance and the impact of changes in the USA are common conversations in both countries – and I was able to gain some insight into what its like to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU from the outside.

We need your input to shape our response to the government’s Industrial Strategy at a workshop on 23 March. This is a year of opportunity for the bioscience sector and this is your chance to tell us what to campaign for. The workshop is for all BIA corporate members and Advisory Committee Chairs. It will be kindly hosted by Simmons and Simmons, EC2Y 9SS, from 9am to 1pm. Email Martin at to reserve your place.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has released a report today on managing intellectual property and technology transfer that states that improvements are needed to the commercialisation of university research. You can read the BIA reaction to this here.

This week we’re in Manchester, defining the biotech lab of the future on Wednesday with VWR International and we’re also holding the latest in our series of networking breakfasts at Alderley Park on Thursday morning. We’ll be joined by Dr Geoff Davison, Chief Executive of Bionow on regional opportunities within the Industrial Strategy, Dr Andy Jones, Vice President Pharmaceutical Innovation at AstraZeneca and Chris Molloy, CEO of the Medicines Discovery Catapult who will update on the Catapult as regional and national asset for the sector. Looking forward to seeing many of you there.

Best, Steve