In advance of the ABPI's Annual Conference 2017 'Seizing the opportunity for Life Sciences in the UK' on 27 April , Steve Bates, OBE, Chief Executive of the BioIndustry Association, highlights how the UK is a leading global cluster for Life Sciences.
The UK is a unique place with a unique ecosystem, which has all the elements that are needed to make it a world leader and a key global cluster of the future. In the UK there is a critical mass of university capability, a strong and supportive fiscal environment, it produces investable science and has a great deal of translation capability and the UK is a society that's supportive of life science innovations to further human health.
There are a number of theories that can be used to define clusters:
1. Accessibility and proximity to life science expertise: The proximity of other companies and stakeholders must be close to allow informal interactions – it really helps if you can create a campus mentality to help nurture innovation and growth. An example of this in the States is Kendall Square in Boston.
Here we have a similar cluster and campus at King's Cross in the space between The Crick, Wellcome and UCLH. In addition to this the UK has the transport network that brings the rest of the UK together. From the King's Cross you can be in Cambridge, Oxford, Stevenage or Manchester, Edinburgh and the Google campus is just down the road.
2. Career building opportunities: There needs to be enough opportunity for people to be able to move between jobs without having to uproot their families. People need to able to take a risky job in the confidence that they can easily move to another company if it does not work out. In the UK we have examples of this type of environment – around Cambridge for biotech companies and also around the M4 corridor for pharmaceutical companies.
This allows the talent, which is the lifeblood of the sector, to set down roots in a cluster to build their personal lives and this attracts new talent to join them.
3. Political or geographical boundaries: There is a wealth of smaller clusters of expertise across the United Kingdom, from the Northern Health Science Alliance and Medcity, to a network of Catapult centres and BioHubs in major city's across the union. The UK ecosystem does a fantastic job of uniting these smaller clusters into a UK wide super cluster.
Whatever you way you define a cluster, it is clear that the UK is a global cluster with the ability to grow in the future and I am confident in the BIA's vision that we will become the third global biotech cluster. The BIA and ABPI play a key role in bringing the smaller national clusters together through our membership to foster greater collaboration and build our national presence. This is increasingly important when put in the context of Brexit and the government's upcoming Industrial Strategy.
How we build the UK cluster will be key to our future health and wealth and I look forward to hearing more of your ideas at the ABPI conference in April.
Steve Bates, OBE will be a keynote speaker at the ABPI conference on 'Building Clusters'.
To book your tickets for the event, Chaired by Jonathan Dimbelby, or to view the agenda of speakers which includes Business Secretary Greg Clark, MP, Lord O’Shaughnessy, Professor Sir John Bell and Sir Andrew Dillon, visit the event page.