UK’s grand ambition for life sciences hinges on delivery

The government has moved closer to realising its life sciences vision with an ambitious and broad-ranging set of proposals to improve the clinical trials environment, but delivery and addressing acute commercial challenges remain the key to success.

On Thursday, the Life Sciences Council, a twice-yearly meeting between ministers and global life science industry leaders, met to discuss how the UK can unlock the economic potential of the sector, and address recent declines in investment and clinical trials performance.

The Council was hosted in Downing Street and was opened by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, and co-chaired by Chloe Smith, Secretary of State for the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology (DSIT) and Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca [1].

Key points of discussion included Lord O’Shaughnessy’s Independent Review of Clinical Trials and Dame Angela Maclean’s review of the life science regulatory system. The government also announced several other welcome measures aimed at boosting industry investment, including a new biomanufacturing fund, a new investment in UK Biobank, an apprenticeship manual, and new Health Innovation Networks.

Richard Torbett, Chief Executive, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said: “Today’s announcements show that the government recognises the huge opportunity waiting to be grasped if the UK can unlock the economic potential of its life science industry – already worth £94.2bn in 2021. These measures demonstrate the government has listened to industry and will help put the UK on track to meeting its life science vision.

“Lord O’Shaughnessy is right that making the UK an attractive destination for industry clinical trials requires regulatory reform, speedier study set-up and approvals, and improved access to data. Implementing his proposals, alongside these other announcements, can be a springboard to delivering on the UK’s ambition to be a science superpower, and we now must press forward with delivery at pace.

“However, improving research is only one part of the equation. To get innovative medicines to patients and fully capture the growth opportunity, we must also fix the commercial environment, and for that, we also look forward to agreeing with Government to a new and improved Voluntary Scheme as soon as possible.”


Last modified: 26 May 2023

Last reviewed: 26 May 2023

[1] Key attendees at the Life Sciences Council on 25 May 2023 included:


  • Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Hon. Chloe Smith MP, Secretary of State, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT)
  • Will Quince MP, Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)
  • George Freeman MP, Minister of State at DSIT
  • Lord Dominic Johnson, Minister of State, Department for Business and Trade (DBT)


  • Sir Pascal Soriot, CEO, AstraZeneca
  • Dame Emma Walmsley, CEO, GSK
  • Haruo Naito, CEO, Eisai Co Ltd
  • Vas Narasimhan, CEO, Novartis
  • Dr Giovanni Caforio, CEO, Bristol Myers Squib
  • Dr Jean-Christophe Tellier, CEO, UCB
  • Neil Mesher, Medtech CEO/ EU lead, Philips
  • Dr Deepak Nath, CEO, Smith & Nephew
  • Lisa Anson, CEO, Redx Pharma
  • Dr Richard Torbett, Chief Executive, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)
  • Dr Dean Y Li, MSD (Merck & Co)
  • Gary Hendler, Eisai Co Ltd
  • Dr Nerida Scott, Johnson & Johnson Innovation
  • Peter Ellingworth, Chief Executive, Association of British HealthTech Industries (ABHI)
  • Steve Bates, Chief Executive, BioIndustry Association (BIA)

Officials, NHS and key stakeholders

  • Professor Sir John Bell, Life Sciences Champion
  • Sir Jon Symonds, Life Science Champion
  • Richard Meddings, Chairman NHS England
  • Dame June Raine, CEO, MHRA
  • Dr Sam Roberts, CEO, NICE
  • Tim Ferris, Director of Transformation, NHS England
  • Rosalind Campion, Director, Office for Life Sciences
  • Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive Officer, UK Research and Innovation
  • Ceri Smith, Director General, Strategy & Investment, Department for Business and Trade
  • Alex Jones, Director General, DSIT
  • Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Executive, National Institute of Health Research
  • Rt Hon Professor Lord Darzi of Denham, Chair, Accelerated Access Collaborative
  • Matthew Style, Director General, NHS Policy
  • Roland Sinker, Chief Executive, Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) NHS Foundation Trust
  • Paul Schreier, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Wellcome Trust
  • Dr Dan Mahoney, Life Sciences Investment Envoy
  • James O'Shaughnessy, Head of Clinical Trials Review

The ABPI exists to make the UK the best place in the world to research, develop and use new medicines. We represent companies of all sizes who invest in discovering the medicines of the future. 

Our members supply cutting edge treatments that improve and save the lives of millions of people. We work in partnership with Government and the NHS so patients can get new treatments faster and the NHS can plan how much it spends on medicines. Every day, we partner with organisations in the life sciences community and beyond to transform lives across the UK.