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Invest and innovate to keep UK life sciences globally competitive

Britain’s life sciences sector has made a massive contribution to global public health during the pandemic by ensuring continued supplies of medicines and researching and developing new vaccines to protect the world from COVID-19.

The UK has been at the forefront of this effort. Our industry is one of Britain’s key strategic sectors: a driver of productivity, the largest investor in R&D, and a major source of export revenues with high-value employment across the country.

This is why the government is staking its post-pandemic recovery on thriving, innovative sectors like ours.

The government’s Life Science Vision sets out the potential for further substantial growth for our sector, but this can only be delivered with meaningful investment through the upcoming Spending Review. Richard Torbett, Chief Executive of the ABPI

The government’s Life Science Vision sets out the potential for further substantial growth for our sector, but this can only be delivered with meaningful investment through the upcoming Spending Review.

To make the Vision a reality the Chancellor should announce:

A pro-innovation fiscal policy

The government’s pledge to invest £22bn per year in R&D by the end of this parliament is an essential foundation for life sciences growth, but we also need the right incentives in place to encourage and pull in private business investment.

Combining increased public investment with globally competitive incentives would be seen by investors as a signal of the government’s intent to turn the UK into an innovation powerhouse for both R&D and manufacturing.

1. R&D tax credit modernisation

Research and development is an engine of growth, catalysing innovation across the economy. Capital should therefore be made an eligible expense.

Our analysis shows that this would stimulate up to £1.2bn per annum of additional private sector R&D, raise GDP by £4bn by 2030 and pay for itself within 11 years, improving tax revenues.

2. Capital grants for manufacturing

The launch of the Medicines and Diagnostics Manufacturing Transformation Fund was hugely welcome. Such a facility is essential to a competitive offer and ensuring investments are secured in the UK.

Initially set at £20m, there’s a chance to make sure the ambition for the fund matches the demand from companies for this support. Expanding the fund to meet demand would bring significant new investment in this critical sector, helping the UK compete with other forward-thinking countries already making this a priority.

This is a massive opportunity to increase exports and bring high-value jobs to some of our most disadvantaged regions.

Investment in the world-class institutions that underpin the UK’s life sciences sector

Companies are attracted to countries at the cutting edge of science, with responsive and flexible regulatory regimes. The MHRA’s approach to approving COVID-19 vaccines has been second to none. A fully funded and supported MHRA is a post-Brexit opportunity that must be capitalised on.

This is also vital if the MHRA is to meet its ambition to expand its Early Advice Service and the Innovative Licensing and Access Pathway (ILAP), to improve the UK’s competitiveness in clinical research, regulation, evaluation, and adoption. NICE must also be sufficiently resourced to efficiently conduct the technology appraisals that follow regulatory approval.

3. Boosting NHS capacity for research

This spending round should also make sure we’re looking to boost the NHS’s capacity to deliver clinical research across the entire NHS, with all patients able to benefit from cutting edge clinical trials and ultimately exciting new treatments.

The benefits extend beyond those patients taking part. The NHS could build substantially on the £350m it earned from commercial clinical research in 2019, funding that can be reinvested into patient care.

4. Improving the UK’s digital infrastructure

Delivering on data and genomics is also crucial, with global competitors investing at pace and scale in these areas. Financing the full delivery of the Government’s Data Saves Lives Strategy at the forthcoming Spending Review is imperative if the UK is to establish a competitive advantage.

5. Building a skilled workforce

Finally, none of this can be delivered without a skilled workforce. Funding must also remain in place to maintain academic degree qualifications as part of the degree apprenticeship for science, and degree apprenticeships should continue to support a broad base of science skills to enable future career pathways.

Final thoughts

The Spending Review has come at an exciting time for UK life sciences. We’re ready to make the most of the next decade: Building our capacity as a global hub of research and health excellence, advanced manufacturing for the next generation of treatments and cutting-edge regulation delivering meaningful changes to patients at home and around the world. 

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  • Budget