• Press Office

    Posted in category News Release by Press Office on 22/04/2008

    Threat To Pharmaceutical Industry Support for University Research

The pharmaceutical industry has extensive collaborative research links with the UK university science base, but there are growing signs that it is under threat, according to data published by the ABPI today.


​The ABPI figures, gained from a survey of 11 major UK-based pharmaceutical companies, show that 606 PhD studentships and 327 postdoctoral grants were conducted in collaboration with 78 British universities in 2007.

But the figures are down from 2003 – by nearly 14 per cent on PhD studentships and almost 25 per cent for postdoctoral grants – and this is a cause for concern.

“While the industry continues to work closely with universities, there is a worrying decline in the level of activity,” said Dr Philip Wright, ABPI Director of Science and Technology.

“There have been real benefits from these collaborations for both academia and industry, with a two-way flow of skills and knowledge. It has been a ‘win-win’ situation that has been one of the UK’s historical strengths, and Britain can ill afford to have it damaged.

Underlying reasons for the declining collaboration include escalating costs, and the increasing difficulty in negotiating contracts, including the issue of intellectual property ownership.

Given the interdependence between pharmaceutical sector research and academic bioscience, the ABPI believes it is critical not only to address these issues but also to restore industry’s overall confidence in the UK as a place to conduct research – shown in a recent CBI/ABPI survey to have fallen to a worryingly low level.

ABPI Director General Dr Richard Barker said: “With increasing competition for biomedical leadership from Asian economies, it is vital that Government and industry unite to restore confidence and maximise the UK’s chances in the global race for pharmaceutical innovation.”

There are three main types of collaboration between industry and universities:

  • PhD studentships, where students carry out research projects jointly between a university and a company.
  • Postdoctoral grants, where jointly funded research programmes are undertaken between companies and universities, including exchanges of personnel.
  • Industrial placements, where undergraduate students work within companies for usually one year as part of their degree studies.

The total value of all of the collaborations reported in the survey is in excess of £65 million.

The ABPI survey shows that in 2007 the top ten universities – Manchester, Cambridge, Imperial, Oxford, Bristol, Leeds, Nottingham, King’s, Sheffield and University College London – have just over half the number of PhD studentships, and 80 per cent of the studentships are shared between just 30 per cent of the 78 universities reported.


Regional figures showing the number of PhD studentships trends in geographical groupings are available online (PDF file - 24.4 KB).

Slides showing data from the ABPI’s survey of its member companies are also available (PDF file - 50 KB).

For further information, please contact: ABPI Press office 020 7747 1410

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