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Decisive action to boost life-sciences could deliver better patient outcomes and help UK pull away from the competition

Hot on the heels of encouraging news about a COVID-19 vaccine, a fresh report from the CBI has called on the government to take decisive action to bolster the UK’s world-leading life-sciences sector.

The report, “Let’s Get Clinical”, outlines numerous ways to deliver vastly improved patient outcomes, cement the UK’s reputation as a leading hub for esearch and innovation, and pull ahead of growing international competition.

The life sciences sector is at the heart of economic and social prosperity in the UK. Contributing over £70bn per year to the UK economy, and employing nearly a quarter of a million people across the country, the sector plays a vital role in both driving innovation and delivering improved patient outcomes and standards of care.  

Looking at five key drivers of competitiveness, measured against key international competitors, the report “Let’s Get Clinical” evaluates progress and makes recommendations for bolstering the UK’s position as a global life sciences hub. These include:

  1. Government-backing of the sector
  2. Strength of the research and innovation framework
  3. Access to talent
  4. Stability and competitiveness of the taxation system
  5. A flexible healthcare system keeping pace with changing patient needs

Speaking about the new report Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said:

“The life sciences sector is already a major asset for the UK economy and society, but that doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. The race for investment and talent is fierce. Other countries are desperate to usurp the UK’s leading position, so it’s time to put clear distance between us and the competition.

“By strengthening the UK’s innovation ecosystem, ensuring government-backing for the sector and enhancing tax competitiveness we can lay the foundations for a world-class offer that is not only competitive today, but offers jobs, growth and opportunities long into the future. Aligning the country’s skills system to the sector’s needs will ensure a stream of talent to help the sector grow and thrive.”

On the impact of COVID-19 and delivering improved patient outcomes, Matthew said:

“The COVID-19 crisis has been a landmark moment in highlighting the importance of the life sciences sector to the UK’s resilience. It has also shown just how powerful true partnership between the public sector and and business can be, ranging from the heroic efforts of our healthcare workers to the agility of firms in rising to the PPE challenge through to working round the clock to develop an effective vaccine.

“By simplifying NHS procurement, accelerating digital transformation, and strengthening engagement with the life sciences sector, we can ensure patients across the UK get the best and most effective treatments available anywhere in the world.”

Dr Richard Torbett, Chief Executive of Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said:

“Science will help us beat this pandemic and good-quality jobs will help us deal with the economic fallout. Our life sciences sector provides both and has the potential to deliver so much more.

“Implementing policies that keep us competitive today will define the next decade of UK life sciences as much as artificial intelligence or aging research will.

“We want the UK to be the best place in the world to research, develop and use the medicines of the future. Today’s report is an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of the continued success of our sector.”

Key recommendations

  1. Government-backing of the sector
  • Performance: Government commitment to the sector has been good overall.
  • Key recommendation: Maintain momentum on the implementation of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy (LSIS) and ensure it is both is joined-up across government and properly integrated with other aspects of the Industrial Strategy.
  1. Strength of the research and innovation framework
  • Performance: The UK has a world leading life sciences ecosystem and its powerful research base has underpinned the growth of the sector.
  • Key recommendations:
    • The UK should invest in its clinical trials infrastructure and deliver an ambitious end-to-end research and innovation system.
    • BEIS should establish a new body, Accelerate UK, to join-up existing initiatives and bring support for innovation adoption under one clear banner.
    • Ensure the establishment of a UK Advanced Research Projects Agency (UK ARPA) represents a sustained investment for the UK, catalyses business engagement and helps commercialise key breakthroughs within the life sicences sector.
  1. Access to talent
  • Performance: While much more must be done to plug STEM skills shortages, the publication of rules governing the UK’s new immigration system has been viewed as generally positive for the sector.
  • Key recommendations:
    • The Apprenticeship Levy must be radically reformed and turned into a more flexible Skills and Training Levy that will support business to invest more in their people.
    • The government must act swiftly on the findings of the Science and Industry Partnership’s life sciences skills strategy.
  1. Stability and competitiveness of the taxation system
  • Performance: The UK ranks highly on the quality of its taxation system and regulatory quality, with the Patent Box and R&D tax credit viewed as key to the UK’s attractiveness.
  • Key recommendation: Build on the success of the R&D tax credit by widening it to reflect modern research practices so it can become an engine for life sciences business investment in the UK.
  1. A flexible healthcare system keeping pace with changing patient needs
  • Performance: The NHS is in a unique position to provide patients with the latest and most effective medicines and treatments available. However, more must be done to improve procurement processes and catch-up to international rivals on medicines uptake, innovation and medtech investment.
  • Key recommendations:
    • Leverage the Accelerated Access Collaborative to ensure that new medicines, diagnostics and medical technologies are available on the NHS more quickly.
    • Drive forward with much needed digital transformation of the NHS; responsibly and ethically utilise its vast wealth data to accelerate patient-centred care breakthroughs in the UK.


Original article link: https://www.cbi.org.uk/media-centre/articles/decisive-action-to-boost-life-sciences-could-deliver-better-patient-outcomes-and-help-uk-pull-away-from-the-competition/

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