Trade bodies for the UK's life sciences industry have given a modest welcome to plans from the government to boost lending to UK companies in an effort to stimulate economic growth.
Business secretary Vince Cable unveiled a government-backed 'business bank' yesterday, setting out plans to help companies invest and expand in a move he said would "shake up the market".
Cable said: "Government makes decisions every day that affect the British economy, but has for too long done this in an ad hoc way. Government needs to be more like business, by making strategic plans and sticking to them.
"Our first part of that plan is lifting the barrier that poor access to finance puts on growth. By helping firms to invest capital, businesses expand, and create jobs.”
The plans aim to lift a range of sectors in the UK, including life sciences, which will benefit from a "collaborative but challenging sector strategy" alongside other 'advanced manufacturing' areas such as the aerospace and automotive industries.
These strategies, though as yet undefined, "will include building strategic partnerships with industries and targeting support for them to help realise their substantial growth prospects", the government said.
Overall the plans received a somewhat muted response from both the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and the BioIndustry Association (BIA) and both called for other means of growth to be taken into consideration.
Although declaring he was “pleased” with the government's support for the industry in the UK, the ABPI's CEO Stephen Whitehead said it was “important that government doesn't overlook other issues of fundamental importance – such as patients being able to access the most innovative medicines and treatments”.
Crucial to this is the Innovation, Health and Wealth review, according to Whitehead, which sets out an agenda for spreading innovation throughout the NHS and speeding up access to medicines.
The BIA once again reiterated its call for a “Citizens' Innovation Fund”, which would give tax breaks to individuals investing in innovative businesses.
"Crowdsourcing finance initiatives should be introduced alongside new banks,” said the BIA's CEO Steve Bates.
“The BIA believes that Citizens' Innovations Funds would unlock the patriotic potential of British savers to support innovative new businesses. The introduction of CIFs would not only diversify the supply of finance but also help provide the long-term capital that innovative, high growth firms need.”
Both organisations did however welcome Cable's announcement of the Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Synthetic Biology, which is being formed to support the commercialisation of innovations in this area of life sciences.
Through this centre, the Technology Strategy Board will encourage UK companies to apply for funding from the £6.5m competition for synthetic biology from next month.
“Continued investment in projects like these are genuinely valued by industry, as are a number of other initiatives such as the 'patent box',” said the ABPI's Whitehead.