The UK government has pledged to invest £146m in ‘leading edge healthcare’ technologies to support the country’s life sciences sector. News of the investment came in late August, as Sir John Bell unveiled the results of an independent industry-led review of the UK life sciences sector, including recommendations from global companies such as AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson, MSD, GSK and from healthcare groups, SMEs and charities.
The money is part of the government’s new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) to support business-led innovation, and will be spread over four years. It follows the announcement in April by business secretary Greg Clark of £1bn in ISCF funding to be made available for six cutting edge technology areas – including healthcare and medicine - in 2017 to 2018.
Speaking at the launch of the UK’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy in Birmingham, Clark said: ‘The life sciences sector is of critical importance to the UK economy and UK health – with over 5000 companies, nearly 235,000 employees and a turnover of £64bn in 2016 – and the government is committed to continuing to help this sector go from strength to strength.’
Life sciences projects set to benefit are:
- £13m for a competition to establish a new Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre, in partnership with industry, to accelerate the adoption of emerging and novel manufacturing technologies
- £66m for a Vaccines Development and Manufacturing Centre to develop and manufacture vaccines for clinical trials and prepare for emergency epidemic threats
- £30m for three new Advanced Therapies Treatment Centres, based in hospitals, to develop and deliver cell and gene therapies to a large number of patients
- £12m in doubling the capacity of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult Centre in Stevenage
- £25m for R&D by SMEs to support innovation at the manufacturing centres
Among its main recommendations, the UK’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy would like to see the Accelerated Access Review adopted to speed patient access to innovative healthcare and encourage NHS collaboration; and better use of data via the creation of regional innovation hubs. It also recommends the establishment of the Healthcare Advanced Research Programme (HARP), through which industries, charities and the NHS can collaborate on long-term UK-based projects to take advantage of the medical trends of the next 20 years.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt simultaneously announced a further £14m of funding to support 11 medical technology research centres to encourage collaboration between the NHS and industry in developing and bringing new technologies to patients through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).