Levelling up the country means playing to our strengths

The balance the Chancellor needs to strike in delivering his first Budget on Wednesday has been made even tougher by the need to prioritise measures to tackle coronavirus.

Artificial intelligence and health data are already helping us unlock the mysteries of complex diseases, and both are now integral to modern biopharmaceutical R&D. The tax system needs to take this into account if we are to make the UK a go-to destination for this next gen research. Richard Torbett

Nevertheless, it appears that the Treasury is still expecting the Budget to demonstrate how the Government plans to ‘level up’ the economy, with noises over the weekend suggesting that this will include investing in scientific achievements of the future.

And backing the UK’s world leading life sciences sector must be front and centre of plans to level up the economy.

In the pages that followed the “Get Brexit Done” chapter of the Conservative Manifesto is a pledge to raise investment in UK R&D to 2.4% of GDP.

This will be critical to the Government’s plans for the economy and for the country.

With the pharmaceutical industry investing more than any other in UK R&D and delivering some of the most productive jobs in the economy, the upcoming Budget should focus on this incredible British success story.

Global companies are always looking for the best place in the world to research and develop treatments for diseases, from rare forms of cancer to dementia.

And in the current climate, there can be no doubt that we must continue to find new vaccines and prevent future global pandemics, like COVID-19 which is impacting almost every country in the world right now.

Today, pharmaceutical companies invest around £4.5 billion a year across every region of the country.

But we think much more can be done.

Increasing how much we spend on R&D to that 2.4% target in the next seven years would put us on par with the rest of the OECD – the least we should be aiming for, but we have a long way to go to reach that level of investment.

This would mean that UK R&D spending would need to rise by around £15 - £23 billion.

Such an increase would only be possible if the UK makes sure its R&D incentives are at least as attractive as the many other countries that are also looking to increase their R&D. 

Policies that make it easier for our companies to invest in the UK and, critically, emerging high-value growth areas of the future are exactly where the Chancellor should be looking as he sets out the Government fiscal agenda for these formative next few years.

Artificial intelligence and health data are already helping us unlock the mysteries of complex diseases, and both are now integral to modern biopharmaceutical R&D. The tax system needs to take this into account if we are to make the UK a go-to destination for this next gen research.

There is huge potential for the UK to lead the world in new gene therapies, some of which are already treating the most common form of blindness. We can do more to make Britain home to the facilities we need to produce them and raise our offer, so they aren’t built elsewhere.

The pharmaceutical industry is already amongst the most productive in the economy. Growing the sector not only promises to increase the number of these jobs across the country but getting new types of treatments to NHS patients as soon as they’re available.

The time to act is now, with bold fiscal incentives that attract global investment to the UK.

As he set out this country’s economic agenda, we have a clear message for the new Chancellor: play to Britain’s strengths and invest in a sector with the means and the ambition to help level up the country.

Last modified: 5 March 2020

Last reviewed: 29 October 2021

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  • Budget