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Team work

Cross-sector collaboration among UK organisations is playing a significant role in boosting the life sciences sector

A group of figures putting together a jigsaw which spells 'teamwork'The life sciences industry in the US has long been recognised for its spirit of collaboration. Within the major life sciences clusters academia, hospitals, biotechs, big pharma and support organisations have developed communities based on networking and sharing expertise. On my recent return to the UK I was delighted to see that cross-sector collaboration now plays a significant role here too. Hopefully, this will be reinforced by the 'Super Cluster' proposals from the Office for Life Sciences (OLS), which aim to bring organisations in the UK together based on therapeutic area rather than geography.

The OLS has catalysed enhanced collaboration between four life sciences trade associations: the BioIndustry Association (BIA), Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI) and British In Vitro Diagnostics Association (BIVDA).

For the BIA the roots of this enhanced collaboration can be traced back to 2007 when the then Prime Minister announced that Sir David Cooksey would review the findings of his 2003 Bioscience Innovation and Growth Team's Bioscience 2015 report. The Review and Refresh of Bioscience 2015 brought together the bioscience sector with big pharma, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, HM Treasury, Department of Health (DH), research councils, academia, the finance sector and patient organisations. The report, published in January 2009, proposed a plan of action for the government to develop an environment in which life sciences can not only flourish in the UK but also prosper.

When Lord Drayson launched the OLS he said that Sir David had done a brillant job in developing a strategy to deliver a successful life sciences sector and that the job of the OLS was to ensure this happens.

Industry and the OLS have become increasingly collaborative in outlining the needs for our sectors, identifying where government can help and delivering a framework for action. This has led to tangible policy proposals in the OLS' Life Sciences Blueprint which include the Innovation Pass, the Patent Box and the life sciences portion of the UK Innovation Investment Fund, as well as the Super Cluster.

These proposals are not only designed to help smaller companies to develop, but also to encourage further investment by larger ones. Following the announcement of the Patent Box, GlaxoSmithKline revealed it would invest £500m to manufacture next-generation respiratory medicines and potentially to build a state-of-the-art biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant in the UK, which it has said could create 1000 new jobs in the sector.

However, we as an industry should not be complacent. It is essential that we maintain pressure on government to deliver on the other proposals in the Review and Refresh of Bioscience 2015, as they were designed to work together as a package and failure to deliver on one  will weaken prospects for the future of the sector.

Regardless of the outcome of the impending General Election, our sector needs to keep up the intensity of its work. To date, opposition parties have been positive about the OLS and we will need to ensure that this talk is backed up by action should they come to power. The proposals in the Review and Refresh of Bioscience 2015 and the Life Sciences Blueprint transcend party politics: they are rooted in the need to deliver new, innovative and improved healthcare solutions for the UK public.

The OLS is proving successful but for further future success, it needs to continue and be reinforced. The DH needs to be involved directly in delivering the Life Sciences 2010 actions, such as ensuring NHS uptake of innovative medicines. There also needs to be a greater buy-in to proposals from HM Treasury to ensure that the Patent Box is implemented fully to incentivise exploitation of UK patents and to adopt changes to consortium relief to promote investment in small companies.

The UK life sciences sector has had many successes over the last decade, however these need to be more frequent to set a high standard of expectation in the UK and I believe that working with the OLS is one way to secure our future success.

We must also ensure that the good work and successes here can be spread across the globe. It is my hope that the UK can be seen as one of a handful of life science hubs in the world; a location where companies, investors, the state and patients can collaborate  to bring about new, innovative medicines.

Nigel Gaymond


The Author
Nigel Gaymond is chief executive, BioIndustry Association

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12th April 2010


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