An independent review of the life sciences industry in the UK has highlighted how the UK can exploit its existing strength to increase the pace of economic growth in the sector. The launch of the review coincides with a government announcement of £160m funding to support the development of new medical technologies and advanced therapies and medicines.
The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, written by John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford and chairman of the Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research, in conjunction with the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Board, outlines how the government can work with industry to help the UK retain its leading position in the life science sector.
Courtesy of University of Oxford
According to the report, life sciences in the UK currently generate £64bn of turnover and employ more than 233,000 scientists and staff. Globally, it is expected to reach $2 trillion in gross value by 2023. However, in the foreword, Bell states that there is a requirement for sustained effort over a longer period of time in order for the UK to retain its competitive edge in this sector.
“This strategy should be viewed in the context of the government’s wider industrial strategy agenda, and where proposals may complement those coming forward from other sectors,” he writes.
The review is divided into five key themes: science; growth; NHS; data; and skills, and complements many of the objectives set out in the NHS Five-Year Forward View. Among the core recommendations is a call for the creation of a Health Advanced Research Programme (HARP); sustained and increased funding for basic science to match international competition; further improvements to the UK’s clinical trial capabilities; and the tax environment in the UK to ensure growth of the sector.
Bell also calls for the adoption of the Accelerated Access review to encourage UK investment in clinical and real-world studies and for the establishment of two to five digital innovation hubs to provide data across regions of three to five million people.
Niall Dickson, co-chair of the Brexit Health Alliance and chief executive of the NHS Confederation welcomed the review saying that the government should look closely at how research could be affected by the UK leaving the EU and how we keep our leading role in international medical research.
“Life sciences and other areas of health and care research should be seen for what they are — major assets for the UK economy — not a cost to the taxpayer.
“As Brexit negotiations continue we urge the Government to remember that life sciences, the development of cutting-edge medical innovations, generates around £66bn each year. If we are to fulfil the potential of life sciences, the NHS must be supported, encouraged and resourced to play its part,” he said.
The review recognises that the most important changes in healthcare will emerge with the increasing digitisation of a wide range of information — patient records, x-rays, pathology, images, genomics, healthcare management tools, and the input from a wide range of digital monitoring devices.
Bell says that the strategy document should “start the conversation between industry and government as to what both parties can invest in order to achieve the ambitious vision set out and reap the benefits in the UK of improved health and a strong economy.”