Driving innovation

Office for Life Sciences
From an economic perspective, the Life Sciences industry is hugely important to the UK producing high value products and services that are or have the potential to be global in scale. In the UK, over 4,000 companies (pharmaceuticals, medical technology and biotechnology) employ around 120,000 people. The pharmaceutical and medical technology sectors invested £4.8bn in R&D in the UK in 2008 and had combined exports of £23.4bn with a positive trade surplus of £6.3bn. The medical technology industry is growing rapidly with the largest share in Europe at around 2,000 companies, the majority of which are small and medium enterprises (SMEs)
Recognising this, the government set up the Office for Life Sciences (OLS) earlier this year. It brought together the efforts of three different government departments – the Department of Health, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and HM Treasury – to look at both the immediate and long-term actions needed to support this crucial sector of our economy.
The OLS demonstrates the government’s commitment to the Life Sciences industry and its determination to help ensure that the UK remains a world leader in Life Sciences. It is an example of how ministers and business representatives can work together for the benefit of our economy and our society.
OLS has had extensive discussions across the public and private sector and set out a package of measures to maintain and strengthen the Life Sciences industry in the UK and market it internationally. The OLS and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) – along with other government departments, industry, the NHS and academia – are currently working hard to deliver these commitments, which have the potential to make a real, tangible and lasting difference to the industry.
Developments such as the Innovation Pass (to drive innovation and increase the uptake of new innovative medicine in the NHS) and the Industry and Higher Education Forum (to ensure a continued flow of highly skilled graduates) will address some of the real needs of businesses in the Life Sciences industry.

UKTI is also investing considerable resource in international marketing. Significant work has already been put into building the UK’s life science brand overseas through the industry-led Life Sciences Marketing Board. Through trade events such as Medica, we are enhancing the reputation of the UK Life Sciences industry to a global audience. All UK companies at Medica are effective ambassadors for the Life Sciences industry and we were delighted to see so many of them, such as Bedfont Scientific who showcased their new NObreath mouthpiece which is set to revolutionise management of asthma, and Inov8 Science, a world leader in airborne infection prevention.

Innovation in the NHS
Innovation is a real strength in the UK and a particular passion of mine. In June 2009 the UK held an extremely successful Innovation Expo at ExCel, which showcased cutting-edge international technologies from the private, public, academic and scientific communities to over 3,500 delegates. We are planning a further Expo in June 2010 with a parallel international business facing Life Sciences event.
My NHS Next Stage Review had innovation as one of its cornerstones, along with quality and patients rights. Acting on my review, the government is now working to make sure that there is a culture within the NHS that supports innovation.
Among the recommendations in the Next Stage Review are a £220 million regional innovation fund, which will provide more training and development for frontline staff on innovation in health and wellbeing. Academic health science centres will support better planning and uptake of pharmaceuticals so that new medical technologies pass from development to application more quickly. Finally, there will be a legal duty on every Strategic Health Authority to promote innovation. This will be the first time any health organisation has had such a legal requirement placed upon them.
However, the new agreement is also much better geared towards encouraging and rewarding innovation. For the first time, the agreement will include measures to promote the uptake of cost-effective, innovative new treatments. The use of flexible pricing and patient access schemes will help increase access to medicines at prices that better reflect value.
Still many challenges remain. From 2011 the NHS is facing significantly reduced funding and will have difficult choices to make. However, this offers an opportunity for the Life Sciences industry to provide innovative medicines and technologies to help reduce costs, as well as leading to improved patient care. During these times, it will be important that we do not cut back on innovative technology.
These are just some of the commitments designed to improve collaborative working across the UK Life Sciences industry. By strengthening investment in innovation, we can ensure that the UK maintains its position as a global centre of Life Sciences excellence and expertise.