As previously reported, the government and businesses in the UK have linked hands to come up with a new marketing strategy to ensure that the country’s life sciences sector keeps its prominent position in the global arena.

The first step under this plan is the creation of a marketing strategy board - expected to be in place by spring next year - consisting of business and government leaders who will be responsible for rolling out any marketing initiatives to exploit the country’s favourable life sciences environment and the new technologies it offers.

PharmaTimes UK News had a quick chat with Kevin Box, Chair of the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) group’s bio/pharma sector advisory committee, and the UKTI about the issue:

PT: Is the UK losing its attractiveness as a base for life sciences, or is the move merely designed to prevent that from happening in the future?

Cox: “This is most definitely a move designed to prevent that from happening in the future. We have to recognise that other countries are increasingly strong in this area and we cannot be complacent. The UK has a great story to tell, we haven’t been capitalising on it and that must change.”

UKTI: “The UK is home to 1% of the world's population yet we undertake more than 5% of the world's science and 19% of the world's top selling medicines were developed in the UK. At the same time, many UK life science companies are making in-roads abroad. But we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. In this global world, the life science industry faces still competition from both mature and emerging economies.”

PT: What are the UK's particular strong points as a life sciences environment, and what are the key challenges/barriers?

Cox: “The UK is not a newcomer to this sector and has a depth of talent and capability that spans generations. This is an excellent foundation on which to keep innovating and that will continue to give us a global competitive advantage.”

UKTI: “The UK has one of the strongest and most productive life science economies in the world. UK Life Sciences companies have over 400,000 employees. The revenue generated from Life Science products alone (excluding services) amounted to £23 billion in 2004. Key international companies have operations in the UK, including GSK, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, GE Healthcare, Amgen, Genzyme, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Novartis and Eisai. R&D is a key UK strength; 15 of the world's 75 top-selling medicines (19%) were developed in the UK. UK Life Science researchers have won over 20 Nobel prizes in the sector. The UK medical devices industry employed 47,000 people in 2005 and it is estimated that more than 50% of the UK's population come into contact with a medical device on any one day.”

How can the UK compete against fast emerging regions like India and China?

Cox: “The UK already competes on the global stage which is why we have a world leading life sciences sector. What this is about is making sure we keep one step ahead by investing in the future.”

UKTI: “China and India have experienced rapid economic growth in recent years. With their consistently high rates of growth and large populations, all key commentators predict that their economic rise is set to continue. As such, they represent enormous opportunities for UK businesses, but also increased competition - which is why we need to act now. Increasingly, inward investment and trade development work needs to be seen as integral parts of the UK's response to the globalisation of business and UKTI is determined to do all it can to exploit all the synergies between these activities.”

Are we doing enough to nurture the life sciences environment in the UK?

Cox: “There will always be areas which need more focus in order to maintain the UK's strong position. This initiative is going to make it easier to identify these areas and react quickly.”

UKTI: “There is always more that can be done and we are not complacent. A more joined up approach to selling the UK internationally can only be a good thing.”