Lab worker carrying out tests while wearing PPE

Positive signs but still room to improve on UK life sciences sector

The UK has long prided itself on being a haven for scientific discovery and advancement, but new competitiveness data shows that in the field of life sciences, there is still scope for further improvement by the country.

The Life Sciences Competitiveness Indicators 2020 demonstrated the role which the UK’s life sciences industry plays in the national economy, generating near to £81bn in annual turnover in 2019 and employing quarter of a million people.

A strong life sciences sector ensures the NHS has access to the latest cutting-edge research, technology and treatments, allowing patients to receive quicker access to them.

Among the revelations from the data, the UK ranked slower than a number of fellow European nations in getting new medical developments to its patients.

In response, the Chief Executive of ABPI, Richard Torbett, said: “It’s great to see UK life sciences continuing to punch above its weight. The investment in R&D that the sector makes will be critical to the economy as we recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

“However, it’s vital that these innovations make it to NHS patients quickly.

“The statistics show that we are often slower off the mark than other European countries to get the latest new medicines to patients. We welcome renewed efforts and focus by the government to improving this and we will work with them and the NHS to make this a reality.”

With the pandemic having almost certainly further impacted these measures too since the data was captured, there is notable emphasis on the UK Government to continue to invest in and back up the country’s life sciences industry.

ABPI and a number of other industry trade bodies have recently united in a call on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to update R&D rules to help release further growth in tech and advanced manufacturing sectors.

NHE March/April 2024

NHE March/April 2024

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- Steve Gulati, University of Birmingham 

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