Government to provide £90m for life sciences

Posted on 6 Dec 2011

A package of measures to drive growth in the UK’s life sciences sector by accelerating the move from discovery to commercialisation was announced by prime minister David Cameron yesterday.

This new Biomedical Catalyst fund has been set up to facilitate turning high class research into innovative products and services. The programme will provide staged investment, while also allowing applications that are already partly developed to enter the “pathway” at any suitable stage.

It will see the Technology Strategy Board team up with the Medical Research Council to support some of the UK’s leading life science companies and academic institutions. Under the scheme the TSB will receive additional funding of £90m, which will be aligned with existing MRC academic translational funding, providing a programme valued at £180m.

Support from the Biomedical Catalyst fund will be available to both academically and commercially-led research and development. It aims to provide support from initial research in universities, through to commercial development in SMEs.

Philip Whiteman, chief executive of Semta, the manufacturing skills sector council, pinpointed the gap between research and business uptake of innovation to The Manufacturer last week, citing it as the missing part of the Autumn Statement. The funding adds to the myriad of government funding initiatives to propel innovation, such as the R&D tax credit and the £400m investment to help SMEs access finance.

Iain Gray, chief executive of TSB, said the partnership will “focus on areas such as regenerative medicine, stratified healthcare and emerging medical technologies.”

A key message from both the TSB and the MRC was the desire to support every stage of the process from incubating innovations in academia to supporting and accelerating companies’ innovative product and process developments.

Sir John Savill, chief executive of the MRC, said: “We look forward to working with the Technology Strategy Board to promote productive partnerships between MRC-funded scientists and high technology companies, especially SMEs.”

He added: “The MRC is keen to help SMEs further engage with clinical proof of concept studies, here partnerships with academic research groups and patient participation are vital. It is now more important than ever to ensure that public investment is maximised and supports the most promising developments, for both patient benefit and commercial success.”

Business organisation CBI also responded to the government’s publication of the life sciences strategy. Tim Bradshaw, CBI head of enterprise and innovation policy, said: “This new strategy will help us maintain our competitive advantage as the industry evolves. The £180m catalyst fund will help businesses accelerate the development of new treatments and technologies, turning our excellent research into commercial success.”