AstraZeneca funding: ‘British companies investing in the UK should not be headline news’

By Isabel Cameron

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Astrazeneca COVID-19 Clinical trials Research

AstraZeneca recently announced its £650 million investment in the UK, held up by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt as a ‘vote of confidence’ in the country’s life sciences sector.

The news​ comes after AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot previously branded the UK as a ‘very unattractive’ place to do business.

So, what changed and will the cash injection encourage other pharma giants to increase their investment in the UK?

“AstraZeneca’s vaccine was integral to the pandemic​ response in 2020, demonstrating how homegrown innovation can have global impact with the right support,” Sharon Todd, chief executive of SCI, tells Bio Pharma Reporter.

“This new investment is a clear vote of confidence in the UK life sciences industry. Science-based businesses of all shapes, sizes and sectors will be taking notice.”

While the UK has long been AstraZeneca’s homebase, last year Soriot decided to build a $400 million active pharmaceutical ingredient in Ireland, blaming the ‘discouraging’ tax rate in the UK and touting China as the next significant growth region.

However, Jeremy Hunt has evidently been able to tempt the company back, with the promise of a competitive business tax regime.

Now, Soriot has said the UK government has made key improvements, helping to facilitate clinical trials and introducing tax policies to ‘incentivise companies to invest’. 

‘The environment in the UK for life sciences today is different from what it was almost a year ago… the industry and the government have found a compromise in terms of those rebates that were really affecting companies and reducing incentives to invest,” he said.

“There is more to do to increase investment in innovation in the UK but clearly we are moving in the right direction and in a much better environment. There is more to come.”

The UK life sciences sector​ is one of the largest in the world, with a strong history of developing new drugs and therapies. With incentives for companies to put down roots in the UK improving, AstraZeneca’s decision may influence other companies to increase their presence in the country.

Despite these advancements, Todd claims that ‘British companies investing in the UK should not be headline news’ and ‘the government should be heralding announcements like this on a regular basis.”

“Science and innovation-based business, which has been the bedrock of British industry, needs to be nurtured. It has specific requirements, including long-term sustained investment and investor confidence.”

The fact that AstraZeneca’s investment has taken many by surprise and prompted such discussion indicates that there is ‘still some way to go’ to create a ‘truly world-leading landscape for science and business growth in the UK’ she adds.

"We should not forget that our country has an enviable history of world-changing scientific innovation, and AstraZeneca’s contribution to that proud legacy was to save millions of lives across the globe. That is a true inspiration to British scientists, and I have no doubt that we will continue to fly the flag for our industries in the decades to come as we work together for the benefit of society."

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