The new ‘Life Sci for Growth’ package brings together 10 different policies up to £48 million of new money for scientific innovation to prepare for any future health emergencies, £154 million to increase the capacity of the UK’s biological data bank further aiding scientific discoveries that help human health, and up to £250 million to incentivise pension schemes to invest in our most promising science and tech firms.
The Chancellor’s £650 million package also includes plans to relaunch the Academic Health Science Network as Health Innovation Networks to boost innovation by bringing together the NHS, local communities, charities, academia and industry to share best practice. It also lays out changes to planning rules to free-up lab space and updates a route for East West Rail (EWR), the new railway line, to improve connections between UK science powerhouses Oxford and Cambridge, bringing more investment to the region.
Life Sciences is one of the UK’s most successful sectors, worth over £94 billion to the UK economy in 2021, a 9% increase on the year before. As a key industry driving UK growth the Chancellor has identified it as a focus for government, ensuring regulation aids innovation, government funding is targeted at vital projects and investment is diverse. This also helps to deliver the Science and Technology framework through reforming regulation, boosting investment and driving up talent and skills.
The announcements improve the regulatory environment for Life Sciences companies and our approach to UK commercial clinical trials. As part of this, the Chancellor has committed to make it easier for revolutionary healthcare products to get to NHS patients by cutting the regulatory burden of approving clinical trials, and committed £121 million, made up of new and existing funding, to speed up clinical trials and improve access to real-time data via new Clinical Trial Acceleration Networks. This comes in response to publications of the Lord O’Shaughnessy review on commercial clinical trials and Dame Angela McLean’s review on the life science regulatory system.
‘Life Sci For Growth’ commits to invest £154 million from UK Research and Innovation to upgrade the UK Biobank capabilities, the biomedical database containing the in-depth genetic information of half a million UK citizens, something greatly valued by the global scientific community helping drive forward new medical treatments in the sector. The money will go towards a new facility at Manchester Science Park, a new Hub to help SMEs collaborate with industry and academia and better IT to accommodate multi-disciplinary data.
A call for proposals has been released on the government’s Long-Term Investment for Technology and Science (LIFTS) initiative, which will offer £250 million of government support to spur the creation of new vehicles for pension schemes to invest in the UK’s high-growth science and technology businesses, benefitting the retirement incomes of UK pension savers and driving the growth of critical sectors like Life Sciences.
Science and Technology Secretary Chloe Smith said:
“Backing our life sciences sector is a double win for the UK. The package we are announcing today won’t just help this £94 billion industry drive more economic growth and create more high skill jobs. It will support advances in public health which will mean we can all have happier, healthier, more productive lives, delivering a virtuous circle of benefits to society and the economy.”
The government has also signalled its ongoing commitment to the transformational new East West Rail line between Oxford and Cambridge. This region is a globally renowned hub of science, research and innovation, and the railway will support job creation and growth at towns and cities along the route. Today it announced its preferred route alignment for the third section of the railway between Bedford and Cambridge, including a direct link to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, marking a significant step towards delivering the scheme.
The manufacturing arm of the UK’s life sciences sector is also set for a funding boost thanks to three new pots to bolster the country’s health resilience. A Biomanufacturing Fund worth up to £38 million in new funding has been announced to incentivise investment and improve the UK’s resilience to any future pandemics, via a competitive process to distribute grants. This comes on top of a further £6.5 million made up of new funding and funding from Innovate UK, to ensure that the Life Sciences sector continues to have the right people it needs to deliver its high skilled work.
Jeremy Hunt also committed to increasing lab space today through pledging to reform planning rules to help scientists. Proposals including local authorities taking greater account of R&D needs in their planning decisions.
The Chancellor has hosted four similar events to the Treasury’s Life Sciences Connect conference throughout 2023, each one focused on his key growth industries; digital tech, green industries, creative industries and advanced manufacturing.