London is poised to be at the forefront of the bioscience revolution, but progress is being held back by “a lack of imagination in the financial world and excessive fastidiousness by our great scientific brains,” says the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
London is the home of scientific breakthroughs, and it has enormous advantages in terms of scientific expertise, financial capital and incentives, such as R&D tax credits, the Biomedical Catalyst, the Patent Box and low corporation tax rates.
Nevertheless, “we haven’t yet found a way of translating all this into commercial capital,” Mr Johnson told the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA)’s Bioscience Forum in London yesterday, and he called for a culture shift towards that of the US.
The financial challenge is “very largely a question of getting the UK venture capital industry to see what they are missing” in terms of the attractions of bioscience, while for the research community, it is about “not being embarrassed by showing a certain commercial avarice,” said the Mayor.
He told researchers: “you can do more good if you bring your product to market and save lives.”
A new BIA report presented at the Forum acknowledges the difficulties faced by innovative bioscience companies in gaining access to public markets in the UK. They have been operating in a “constrained” environment, particularly with regards to traditional sources of venture capital, it says.
However, UK firms “have been leading the way in developing innovative new approaches to sourcing growth capital,” adds BIA chief executive Steve Bates.
“UK companies have seen a number of significant licensing deals come to fruition and other important alternative sources of funding coming to the fore, such as the Biomedical Catalyst grant funding scheme, which has leveraged almost £70 million in private finance into the UK,” he says.
The UK is Europe’s largest biocluster. In 2012, it had over 400 product candidates in development and remained Europe’s capital fundraising leader, both in terms of the amount raised – 363 million euros – and the number of financing rounds, at 49, says BIA.
‘The UK bioscience sector retains a leading global position despite though economic times, and this provides a strong base for the sector to expand, which it is showing positive signs of doing so with the formation of new companies,” adds Ian Oliver, executive director of audit and advisory business services at Ernst & Young.