UK bioscience sector secured a record £1.2bn investment last year, but scientists warn cuts will hold Britain back

 
Sarah Spickernell
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Britain is Europe's leader in Bioscience funding
Britain is Europe's leader in Bioscience funding (Source: Getty)

Britain's biosciences sector netted a record amount of investment last year, according to research by the BioIndustry Association (BIA) and professional services firm EY.

Over the 12 month period, it secured £1.2bn in public equity and venture capital funding – more than double the £498m it raised in 2013, and the highest level since the annual report began 15 years ago.

The increase in funding reflects Britain's growing position as a global leader in the sector – in 2014 it received 31 per cent of Europe's total biotech funding, up from 22 per cent the previous year.

Read more: If the chancellor doesn't prioritise science investment, the rest of the economy will suffer

Steve Bates, chief executive of the BIA, said UK bioscience was “thriving”, thanks to a “strong and supportive fiscal environment with new patient capital pools and open public markets”.

With this strong base in place, we have the potential to not only sustain our momentum but to go much further, and build the third global cluster, alongside the current US leaders.

But the researchers warn that Britain's biotech boom will come to an end if it becomes the victim of spending cuts, which will be revealed in the chancellor’s spending review next month.

It calls for government to protect early stage bioscience funding, and to ensure the continuation of projects like the Biomedical Catalyst programme, which is run by the Technology Strategy Board to provide financial support to the UK's best new life science projects. Since 2013, the scheme has given away nearly £150m in funding.

“Our industry can only remain competitive with our US and European counterparts with continued investment from the Government,” Bates said.

Any decision by the chancellor to cut government support to proven innovation policy measures, such as the Biomedical Catalyst, could halt economic growth in UK bioscience and more importantly prevent it creating wide-ranging health benefits and solutions to some of the key challenges of our time.

In response to the call for ring-fenced funding, a spokesperson for the department for Business, Innovation and Skills told City A.M.:

Science is a priority area for growth and productivity and we have committed to a real-terms investment of £6.9bn in science capital up to 2021. Further decisions on funding beyond 2016 will be made during the spending review, which will examine where best to make robust investments in science and research.

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