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Levelling up life sciences: MedCity’s response to the UK R&D Roadmap

    One of the many things that COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on is the incredible value of life sciences. As hopes and debate around vaccine development increase – of which the Oxford/AstraZeneca and the Imperial trials are some of the most promising in the world – the critical role that the UK life sciences sector plays on a global scale has never been clearer or more prominent.

    Our recently published report, Unleashing Innovation, showcases how London’s three AHSCs, the NHS and the private sector have collaborated and innovated, driving global excellence in the fight to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

    It is against this backdrop that, on the 1 July, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) released the UK Research and Development Roadmap. Setting out the Government’s ambitious vision for R&D, it looks to boost the innovation economy, including in the life sciences sector: one of the most mature and R&D intense sectors in the UK.

    A particular focus of the Roadmap is on how public R&D expenditure can boost the levelling up agenda: a cornerstone commitment from the Conservative Party at the last election to support the Midlands and the North to achieve new levels of economic growth. We fully support this agenda and welcomes the recognition in the Roadmap that the UK strategy must not bluntly replace R&D funding for excellence or innovation potential with place quotas.

    We believe that building R&D capacity, whether infrastructure or skills, across the country can fuel world-leading sectors like life sciences in a competitive global sphere. This can only happen if we expand, not displace, capacity and continue to pursue excellence wherever it is located.

    Likewise, there is little benefit to reinventing the wheel by building up capacity when it already exists – we must instead connect the networks together, as so many of the UK’s world leading academic research centres and institutions already do. This is what will maintain the UK its position at the front of the international pack: by relentlessly investing into our strengths in order to gain advantage and attract private investment from abroad.

    Excellence is achieved when we work together. Regional collaborations between HEIs, industry, the NHS and research charities have delivered incredible results in the response to the current pandemic and beyond. Bringing together shared research expertise to collaborate and benefit from the unique assets afforded by an individual location is a recipe for successful partnerships that develop innovative ideas at scale, encourage new commercial opportunities and create nationwide growth.

    Empowering cluster organisations like MedCity to connect investment with innovators builds strength within regions but can also enable collaborations between clusters to create a stronger UK life sciences sector tackling the challenges of the future in high-value areas such as genomics and AI.

    The UK has incredible strength in life sciences R&D that invests in excellence across the UK. To maintain our standing as world leaders in this field, we can ill afford to create more that is ordinary when we are in prime position to push the boundaries of life sciences and create the extraordinary.

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