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UK Government Announces Life Sciences Sector Deal

The UK government has published a White Paper setting out its new Industrial Strategy and, as part of that strategy, has agreed a Sector Deal with the UK life sciences sector.

The White Paper covers all industries and identifies the life sciences sector as having particular strategic value in the UK, generating £64 billion of annual turnover and employing more than 230,000 people.

A white paper is a formal statement of government policy. The core theme of the White Paper is creating growth and improving productivity based on five foundations: ideas, people, infrastructure, places and the business environment. Over layering the foundations, the White Paper identifies four areas of innovation, referred to as “Grand Challenges”, where the government believes Britain can lead globally – artificial intelligence and big data, clean growth, the future of mobility, and meeting the needs of an ageing society. The strategy will be supported by investment through a new £725m Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and commercial funding.

The Industrial Strategy is centred upon collaboration between the government and industry, set out in “Sector Deals”. The Life Sciences Sector Deal is one of the first four to be launched, the other three being artificial intelligence, automotive and construction.

The Life Sciences Sector Deal builds on the recommendations set out in an industry-led UK Life Sciences Industrial Strategy report published in August 2017, and includes government commitments to:

  • reinforce the UK science offering through new collaborations between industry and UK universities, opening of new research facilities and expanding other operations by life sciences companies in the UK;
  • establish a new Health Advanced Research Programme to support the creation of new innovative and high-risk industries and programmes in the life sciences sector;
  • encourage collaboration between the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and industry, and develop regional Digital Innovation Hubs to support the use of NHS data for research purposes; and
  • grow life sciences manufacturing in the UK.

Other interesting points in the White Paper for life sciences companies include:

  • the government will increase research and development investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 and increase the rate of R&D tax credit to 12 per cent;
  • biotechnology, genetics and cell therapies are identified as specific areas of strength to build on;
  • a new programme funded by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will focus on the use of health data for early diagnosis of disease and development of precision medicines;
  • the government has committed to support regional life sciences clusters such as the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge corridor; and
  • a new Office for Artificial Intelligence will be created and focus on six priority business sectors, one of which is life sciences.

The White Paper leaves little doubt that supporting and growing the life sciences industry in the UK is high on the government’s agenda both now and post-Brexit.

The White Paper is available here.