Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the railways, Sir Alexander Fleming and penicillin, Sir Frank Whittle and the jet engine, Francis Crick and James Watson and DNA. The UK has a rich heritage when it comes to the research and development of new technologies and life-changing discoveries and the biopharmaceutical industry is proud to play its part.
Recent governments have developed an industrial strategy to improve the UK environment for the life sciences sector in order to maximise its contribution to the UK’s health and wealth. Ahead of the general election, political parties all agree on the importance of the biopharmaceutical industry to the UK economy as well as to millions of patients – an industry which employs 73,000 people, contributes £5 billion to the balance of trade, and invests more in R&D than any other sector.
However, the development and manufacturing of medicines is more than an industry, it is part of a social contract to bring life saving and life enhancing medicines to patients.
And this is an ongoing commitment.
On average, it takes over 12 years and more than £1 billion to develop a single new medicine to the standards of quality, efficacy and safety required by law. With these significant investment and product cycles, we have welcomed a continuity of approach between governments and cross-party consensus when it comes to forging a UK industrial strategy. This plays a vital role in encouraging and maintaining investment in the UK, set against what is becoming an increasingly competitive global environment.
Labour’s Agenda 2030 sets out the goal of a ‘high-productivity, high-skilled, innovation-led economy’, a call repeated by Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Chuka Umunna MP in his speech to the Labour Party Conference this year, when he outlined his support for ‘the companies and sectors with ground-breaking products and services that the world needs’.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and SkillsVince Cable MP has highlighted the need for a long-term vision for a knowledge-based economy, and similarly Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman MP has committed to ‘making the UK the best place in the world to discover and design 21st-century health care technologies’.
This consensus means the UK is poised for the next government to build on current industrial strategy structures and approaches. In particular, measures such as the cross-departmental Office for Life Sciences, as well as the recognition at the highest policy levels that the NHS is an integral part of the UK investment environment as our chief customer have sent a signal to both investors and business leaders that the government understands and supports them.
But more is needed to maintain and enhance this position. The ABPI’s own 2015 manifesto sets out the need for a refreshed life sciences strategy that has health policy as an integral part of the government’s approach. All government departments and agencies, including the NHS, need to work together to implement the strategy, with aligned incentives, reporting and accountability.
And yes, industry has to play its part too. As part of our ambition to support a modern industrial strategy that reflects the modern economy, the ABPI continues to work with government, the NHS and our members to tackle the challenges facing the sector. Not least of which is how the health system values and uses the new medicines that companies research, develop and manufacture to bring them to patients.
We want to ensure the UK keeps its position as a world-leading economy and the location of choice for pharmaceutical investment. As such, we have supported the bringing together of biopharmaceutical companies under the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership to address issues around technology, innovation, skills and regulation, as well as how to support the promotion overseas of the UK’s strengths in medicines manufacturing.
The ABPI, as the life sciences partner of choice for government, NHS England and NICE, has a key role to play and we are campaigning for a refreshed life sciences strategy that will bring together science, innovation, industrial and health policy behind a single goal: to make the UK the life sciences location of choice for investment, jobs and new medicines.
Head of Policy and Public Affairs