British biotech vision: 'Attract £3bn, employ up to 60,000 by 2025'

By Anthony King

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags United kingdom

British biotech cluster hopes to attract £3bn, employ 60,000 by 2025
The UK Bioindustry Association (BIA) has set out a vision to create a biotech cluster which could compete in size and scale against hubs in Massachusetts and California.

“This is a thoughtful piece by senior BIA board members and other leaders in the industry to reflect on what is the prize for the sector and for the country if we get these things right in biotech over the next ten years,”​ Steve Bates, CEO of the BIA, told

The vision document​ looks to build on emerging success in biomedicine, highlighting the UK’s “great fiscal climate”​ and “recent crop of IPOs.” ​It notes the UK has begun tacking complex issues like regulatory reform and innovation in the NHS.

UK lacking the killer instinct?

The UK has the world’s most productive large biomedical basic science base when measured on a dollar to citations basis. A gap remains, however, in seeing value beyond publications, to patents for example, compared to the US.

“We think some of the reasons for that is a difference in willingness to try, willingness to fail, and a difference in academic career structure, perhaps a lack of permeability between academia and industry, and ability to go one way and then go back,”​ said Bates.

Increased willingness to fail means encouraging the earlier ‘killer experiment’ and safety nets for those who try and ‘fail well.’

Ten themes for change are listed in the vision document, such as expanding the equity available for biotech investment, and beefing up the flimsy middle of the sector.  Britain’s biomedical estate presently consists of lots of small companies, two or three large companies and a meagre middle tier.

Talent Scout

The vision looks to add a third big pharma HQ to the UK, noting that even locally born Shire moved its HQ to Ireland, and looks to have companies bring business development (BD) teams to the UK to scout for emerging talent and ideas. 

If the vision can become a reality, benchmarked against the success of Massachusetts and California, clear benefits emerge, the report notes.

Such a cluster would take four times as many drugs and other innovations into clinics and to patients by 2025, attract private investment of £2.9bn ($4.4bn) each year and build about 130 more clinical stage drug companies.  This would create 30,000 to 60,000 more direct, high-skill jobs and expand the income tax base by £5bn to £10bn. 

“Given the UK’s fantastic science base, and its vibrant ecosystem, we would like to see all the major pharmas having a significant presence here, certainly sourcing deals here,”​ said Bates.  “It makes sense for global companies to be located in the premier cluster within one of the world’s most important markets [Europe].”

He also points to time zone, language, a society supportive of scientific endeavor and research and lots of legal minds and patent attorneys to raise the dial in terms of ease of doing business. 

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