British biotech told: take 'bold steps' and stand up to rivals

May 28, 2004

The British biotechnology industry may be a big fish in the European pond but it is struggling to keep pace with competition from the US and Asia, according to a report, Paul Hill writes.

The annual biotech report published by Ernst and Young ranks the UK as the "dominant player in the European scene" but warns that revenues have fallen, research spending has been cut and that investor confidence has been low during the past year.

The report says that while biotech companies in the US have succeeded in developing new products, a "lack of new drug approvals continued to plague the European industry".

It casts doubt on whether European biotech companies are "robust enough to be sustainable and ultimately profitable", particularly in the face of competition from well-managed and well-financed US businesses.

Speeding up the regulatory system and drug approval process in Europe would help companies to grow and give the financial markets more confidence to invest, the report concludes.

William Powlett Smith, leader of Ernst and Young's health sciences group in the UK, said: "Europe has plenty of examples of world-beating science, but scientific advances are not enough.

"Companies, investors and governments must take bold steps to ensure that they realise all the benefits of knowledge and hard work."

  • Gordon Brown, the chancellor, this week told a meeting of the UK-US Enterprise Forum in New York that Britain had much to learn from the US model of enterprise.

    Mr Brown said that Britain would have 1.8 million more businesspeople if it had the same proportion starting a business as in the US.

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