You are here

May pledges £160m to life sciences sector ahead of Brexit

[LONDON] The UK government proposed spending £160 million (S$280.2 million) to support medical research and health care as Prime Minister Theresa May seeks to assuage concerns about the economic impact of the nation's looming departure from the European Union.

In the first phase of investment, the government will spend £146 million to support innovation in manufacturing, development of vaccines and advanced treatments, and research by small and medium-sized companies, Business Secretary Greg Clark said on Wednesday. The funding is part of May's proposed £4.7 billion increase in research and development spending over four years.

The government's plans were disclosed alongside recommendations by the UK's life sciences industry on supporting the £64 billion sector through funding for basic science and a tax policy that supports growth, among other measures. Those findings, in a report commissioned by the government and prepared by University of Oxford professor John Bell, will form the basis for a so-called sector deal in coming months.

"The life sciences sector is of critical importance to the UK economy and UK health," Mr Clark said in a statement. The industry, identified by May's administration as one of five that are vital to the economy, includes more than 5,000 companies and employs almost 235,000 people. The government's funding will leverage more than £250 million of investment from businesses, according to the statement, which didn't disclose additional details.

Market voices on:

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also announced £14 million in funding for medical technology research centers to improve collaboration between companies and the UK's taxpayer-funded health care system.

Easing the path to clinical trials needed for drug approvals and making better use of patient data collected through the National Health Service were among the steps recommended in the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy report authored by Mr Bell, who also serves as chairman of the UK Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research. Mr Bell called for emulating areas like Boston and Silicon Valley with strong connections between big drugmakers, small startups, and universities.  "We have created a strategy which capitalizes on our strong science base to further build the industry into a globally-unique and internationally competitive life sciences eco-system," said Mr Bell.

Several billion pounds in government and industry investment will be needed to make the plan a success, Mr Bell said Wednesday in an interview.