Government mulls plans to make UK a life sciences and healthtech world leader


Life sciences is already a multi-billion pound a year industry for the UK (Source: Getty)

The government will consider new plans to make the UK a world leader in the development of new drugs and therapies, and healthcare technologies.

Funding for the £64bn a year life sciences industry in the UK should match the spending of other countries, while ensuring access to skills and talent in the sector should be priorities, experts say.

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A favourable tax environment to encourage more development in UK life sciences with an eye to exports, and new innovation hubs have also been suggested by top scientist Sir John Bell, in a fresh independent review unveiled today.

The recommendations of Bell, which have also called for greater collaboration between the NHS and businesses when it comes to digital health products and "ambitious" long-term research, will now be considered by government.

Life sciences was identified as one of several major sectors along with artificial intelligence (AI) and driverless cars in Theresa May's industrial strategy at the start of the year, with the potential to boost the UK economy.

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"I want patients to continue to be at the front of the queue for the best treatments available, whether that means early access to trials, giving staff brand new innovations and technology to work with, or being at the heart of research to share best practice quickly across the health and social care system," health secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to say.

"A strong and growing life sciences sector ensures this, particularly as we negotiate our exit from the EU,” he will add.

Business secretary Greg Clark will also outline the government's commitment to the industry and  it will now consider Bell's recommendations.

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“The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy demonstrates the world-class expertise the UK already has in this sector and represents the industry’s vision for how we can build on our world-leading reputation in this field," Clark will say.

“We will be engaging with Sir John Bell in the coming months in an effort to work towards a Sector Deal that helps us seize the opportunities in this area.”

An independent review into AI is expected to be published in the coming weeks.