An industry review of the government’s Strategy for UK Life Sciences finds that, two years on, “notable progress” has been made in eight out of 13 initiatives, but there is still much more to do to meet the Strategy’s original objectives.
The review was undertaken by four trade association partners in LifeSciencesUK - the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI), the BioIndustry Association (BIA) and the British In Vitro Diagnostic Association (BIVDA). They say that the Strategy shows a commitment to support the UK as a global centre of excellence, but also note the government’s recognition that, in order to win the global race, it needs to do more to attract new investment and create new jobs and economic opportunities in an increasingly competitive industry.
Their review welcomes the positive developments that are already underway since publication of the Strategy, and praises initiatives such as the Biomedical Catalyst and the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, which it says have improved the opportunities for collaboration between individuals and organisations across the NHS, academia, industry and the voluntary sector.
However, the review adds that “without doubt” the implementation of some government commitments has been inconsistent and, in some cases, has yet to deliver anything close to their stated ambition. These initiatives include the Innovation Scorecard and the Earlier Access to Medicines Scheme.
ABHI chief executive Peter Ellingworth welcomes the “real progress” made over the past two years, and stresses that the work done on initiatives such as the growth of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) fund to £100 million, Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), the Innovation Scorecard and the NICE Implementation Collaborative (NIC) must not be undermined.
“By maintaining a strong and productive relationship with industry, the NHS could deliver the savings that would remove the need for short-term cost-saving measures, such as those seen around procurement, and the cancellation of initiatives such as the Specialised Commissioning Innovation Fund. The role of the AHSNs as a catalyst for the spread of innovation should be strengthened by committing to funding for five years,” he said.
BIA chief executive Steve Bates pointed out that the Biomedical Catalyst in particular has been well-received by companies across the bioscience sector and that the National Biologics Manufacturing Centre will provide a valuable resources for the development of new technologies.
However, the failure to introduce a fully-funded Earlier Access to Medicines Scheme needs to be addressed immediately, he urged.
And Doris-Ann Williams, chief executive of the BIVDA, pointed out that the finance aspect of the Innovation Health and Wealth (IHW) report, published in December 2012, has still not been resolved. Together with recent changes to procurement policy, “there remains cause for concern,” she said.