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Moving on

Recent meetings between Government and key life sciences trade associations have been uniformly positive, boding well for the future

A group of people walking forward in an arrow formationFour of the key UK life sciences trade associations — the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the Association of the British Healthcare Industry (ABHI), the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association (BIVDA) and the BioIndustry Association (BIA) — recently held meetings with the Secretaries of State for Health and Business and with the Office for Life Sciences (OLS).

Interestingly, at these meetings, both sides of the table were collaborative partnerships with similar aims — to ensure the best for the UK. This wish may be for the country as a whole (the coalition Government) or for the development of a sustainable life sciences sector that not only delivers new treatments and products to help patients, but also one that delivers success for UK plc (industry associations).

Possibly because of this commonality of purpose, I felt that both meetings were uniformly positive, particularly in terms of the new Government's wish to continue to work closely with the life science industries. The trade associations are hopeful that ministers from the Department of Health and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will co-chair OLS meetings going forward.

We at the BIA are certainly pleased that the new Government has engaged with the life sciences sector so early. I think they recognise that our industry is innovative as well as constituting a potential source of future economic growth, and I got the impression they were pleased with the OLS model: not only is there collaboration across a number of Government departments, but it also provides an arena in which the Government can meet an industry speaking with a single voice.

Spending cuts
As we begin to move forward, everyone recognises that the coalition Government has to make tough decisions on how to reduce spending and national debt. However, we hope the inevitable cuts do not stifle entrepreneurialism or restrict the innovation on which our sector is founded.

The recent Emergency Budget had mixed messages for our sector: the increase in Capital Gains Tax for higher rate tax payers could dis-incentivise investment in the SMEs that will drive the future growth of the UK economy, as outlined by the coalition Government. However we believe the reduction in Corporation Tax rates signals that Britain is open for investment, and we were pleased by the Chancellor's plans to consult with business to review the taxation of intellectual property (along the lines, we believe, of the Patent Box), the support that R&D tax credits provide for innovation and the proposals of the Dyson Review.

Going forward, the BIA will continue to play an important role with both the Ministerial Industry Strategy Group (MISG) and the OLS. We will have an eye on the future but also on ensuring the delivery of previously announced proposals (such as the Patent Box and the Innovation Pass). We will continue to push hard for the continuation of R&D tax credits and seek other bioscience-friendly tax decisions.

Working together
As well as monitoring policy implementation, the BIA also has further plans to develop the domestic industry. At the forthcoming joint ABPI-BIA Research and Development conference, we will present our vision for the UK as a global life sciences hub for innovative research and development over the next ten years. This is intended to consolidate our strong work over the last decade, during which the UK has connected science, business and healthcare to deliver efficient, high-quality product development for real patient benefit. For the conference we have brought together speakers that represent all of the key stakeholders moving forward, including Government, the NHS, research councils, academia, big pharma and small biotechs.

I hope that the R&D conference will also provide an opportunity for the UK life sciences community to engage with some of the expat life sciences community from around the globe. Over the last 25 or so years I have been fortunate enough to meet many of the British citizens working in the US life sciences industry and I have built a database of well over 1000 individuals, including many C-level executives, working in both academia and industry. The BIA offers me the perfect platform from which to engage this community and to get as many as possible re-engaged with the sector in the UK.

Hopefully, we will be able to attract talented individuals to give something back to their homeland, whether this is as ambassadors for the UK's life sciences capabilities or in the capacity of providing advisory or non-executive directorial roles to UK companies.

I hope that this cross-Atlantic interaction will add to the collaborative environment we are developing to ensure that the UK remains one of the world's leading life science destinations.

The Author
Nigel Gaymond is chief executive of the BioIndustry Association (BIA)

To comment on this article, email pm@pmlive.com

31st August 2010

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