The UK government has laid out a "promising road map" to enable the country "to build its vibrant life sciences sector".
That is the response from industry assocations and charities to the growth review launched by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. Titled The path to strong, sustainable and balanced growth, the plans, which echo those proposed by the outgoing labour government, have been met with enthusiasm by the Association of British Healthcare Industries, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, the Association of Medical Research Charities, the BioIndustry Association, the British In Vitro Diagnostic Association and Cancer Research UK.
In a joint statement, the groups particularly praised plans for the introduction of a patent box, a preferential tax regime of 10% for profits arising from patents which they say "will encourage the commercialisation of discoveries in the UK". They are also pleased about support for R&D tax credits to reflect proposals made in the Dyson review.
The aforementioned groups believe the government is taking note of a joint paper they submitted which stressed the need to focus on skills and training for the scientists of the future and include support for greater researcher mobility between industry and academia.
They have also called on the government to ensure provisions are in place for adequate funding of business and for support of basic science, while improving the uptake and procurement of "world-leading innovative products and streamline the regulation that affects the sector to speed treatments reaching the people who need them". They also hope the review will recognise "the need for a longer term strategy for investment in science strategy to create a sense of direction for the life sciences sector".
Richard Barker, director-general of the ABPI, said that by "enabling UK intellectual property to generate UK jobs, and their clear recognition of the role of the NHS in supporting the sector, the stage is set for a resurgence in UK life sciences". His enthusiasm was echoed by Simon Denegri, chief executive of the AMRC, who claimed that a focus on "sustaining a culture of collaboration and innovation is vital if charity-funded research is to make a difference to people's lives with knock-on benefits for public expenditure and economic growth."
Nigel Gaymond, head of the BIA, concluded that the introduction of the patent box "will result in a significant change of attitude towards the UK as a location for R&D and manufacturing. This will ultimately stimulate interest and investment in the UK’s bioscience companies".
Chancellor Osborne said the the measures would make the UK an even more attractive business location and were a response to “a steady stream of companies" that have left the country in recent years, such as Shire. He went on to say "this government, unlike the last one, is not content to sit by and watch our competitiveness leach away and our corporate tax base undermined".
However, Bill Dodwell, head of tax policy at Deloitte professional services group told the Financial Times that the proposals could have gone further. He said: “There’s nothing in there that Labour hadn’t already announced. There is no more ambition than we had seen under the previous government."
The growth review is out for consultation until February 22.