UK firms should look to global opportunities to offset Brexit woes, says biotech CEO

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Image: iStock/NiroDesign
Image: iStock/NiroDesign

Related tags European union

UK life science companies must become global to help offset staffing and funding problems potentially caused by Brexit, says Arecor CEO Sarah Howell.

The UK has begun the exit process from the European Union (EU) through the recent trigger of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

For the UK’s robust life sciences sector there are concerns with leaving the single market, but according to Sarah Howell, CEO of Arecor Ltd, firms should try to focus on the opportunities.

“The UK is currently a leader in Life Sciences and as a sector makes a significant contribution to the UK’s strength in science and innovation as well as to the economy as a whole.  So from my perspective, maintaining and growing this sector whilst leaving the EU is critical,”​ she told this publication.

“The main concern for the scientific industry as a whole in relation to Brexit is that scientific innovation essentially relies on people and funding.  The former relies on access to the best talent and the UK needs to remain accessible and attractive to the world’s best talent as well as the ability for UK citizens to retain the ability to work in the EU and beyond – collaboration and cross fertilisation of ideas is essential.”

Beyond the Horizon…

The Cambridge, UK-headquartered firm is one of many to have received funding from Innovate UK –the UK’S innovation agency – helping it accelerate its proprietary product development programmes and broader formulation technology R&D.

But Howell warned opportunities offered by EU grant programmes such as Horizon 2020 – of which “the UK benefits disproportionally from”​ – could dry up once the UK leaves.

“The government have guaranteed funding for projects under Horizon 2020 whilst the UK remains a member of the EU, however, a long term solution will need to be found.”

And thus, according to Howell, it will be key for companies to become global in order to capture the opportunities of a post-Brexit world.

“Arecor for example works with leading pharmaceutical companies worldwide, and hence, is essentially hedged as not reliant on any one territory.  It is possible that Brexit will encourage more UK companies to globalise as they look for opportunities beyond the EU which I believe is a positive.”

The drug formulation technology firm recently signed a £45m ($56m) licensing and R&D agreement​ with India’s Cadila Pharmaceuticals.

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