The UK government is to invest more than £140 million in the life sciences over four years as part of its industrial strategy.
The funding, unveiled at the University of Birmingham on 30 August, will support five new major initiatives that focus on advanced manufacturing, new vaccines, advanced therapies and innovation involving small businesses.
The investment, which comes out of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund announced by the government earlier this year, is expected to bring in excess of a further £250 million in private funding from industry.
Life sciences is one of five sectors that the government earmarked for investment in its industrial strategy Green Paper, published in January. It is the second of these sectors for which the government has published a detailed plan on support – the first was battery technology.
Speaking at the launch of the new strategy at Birmingham’s Institute of Translational Medicine, business secretary Greg Clark said that the life sciences sector comprises more than 5,000 companies that employ 235,000 people, with a turnover of £63 billion in 2016. “The government is committed to continuing to help this sector go from strength to strength,” he added.
“The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy demonstrates the world-class expertise that the UK already has in this sector and represents the industry’s vision for how we can build on our world-leading reputation in this field,” he continued.
At the heart of the plan are five themes, the first of which is increasing and sustaining funding for basic research and boosting the country’s clinical trials capability.
The other themes include creating a tax environment that attracts manufacturers to invest in creating high-value exports in the UK, speeding up access to innovative healthcare and technologies through the National Health Service, making better use of patient data and investing in skills across the life sciences ecosystem.
The funding will go towards establishing two new advanced manufacturing centres, including a £66 million centre of excellence to develop and manufacture new vaccines and prepare for epidemic threats, known as the Vaccines Development and Manufacturing Centre. The other will be a £13 million Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre, which will help to advance the adoption of new manufacturing technologies, and a further £12 million will be spent to double the capacity of the existing Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult in Stevenage.
The plan also includes £30 million in funding to establish the Advanced Therapies Treatment Centre, which will be based in three locations and will aim to help deliver cell and gene therapies to patients through a network of hospital centres. A further £25 million is earmarked to support small and medium-sized businesses working with the manufacturing centres.
The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has also announced a £14 million investment in 11 medical technology research centres that will see the NHS and industry work together to develop new medical technologies through the National Institute for Health Research.
Sir John said: “We have created a strategy that capitalises on our strong science base to further build the industry into a globally unique and internationally competitive life sciences ecosystem, supported by collaboration across industry, government, the NHS, academia and research funders to deliver health and wealth.”
Sir Robert Lechler, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: “Importantly, the strategy highlights the potential of the NHS, which we are not currently capitalising on. We must use the NHS as an engine for innovation, embedding a culture of research, improving the adoption of new ideas and technologies and ensuring timely access to these.”
Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said: “The success of this strategy now lies in its vision being backed up by concerted effort and investment across government, the NHS, and the research and private sectors.”