The search for new medicines in 2016 saw a continued increase in collaborative working between pharma companies and other firms, academia, and catapults, pushing further away from the closed innovation model of old, according to a new report by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.

The Association says its Open for Innovation: UK Biopharma R&D Sourcebook 2016 shows that this step change towards open innovation is continuing to support the UK economy, given that the industry streamed £4.2 billion into UK R&D in 2015, marking an increase in investment of 8 percent over the prior year and equating to a fifth of all UK business R&D spending.

The latest figures demonstrate how pharmaceutical organisations have increased their absolute level of investment in collaborative and outsourced drug discovery in the UK over the last five years, with collaborations showing particular strength in oncology and rheumatology, it noted.

However, this increasing reliance on collaboration comes at a price - over the last ten years almost all large biopharmaceutical companies have significantly decreased their employment in in-house discovery in the UK. As these companies account for around 75 percent of all employment in the sector, the impact of this loss is "substantial", noted Dr Neil Weir, senior vice president of Discovery at UCB.

Nevertheless, Dr Virginia Acha, executive director – Research, Medical and Innovation at the ABPI, said: "We are in a period of great change, not least with the UK embarking on a journey outside of the EU, but also as an industry. It is therefore vital for the future discovery and development of medicines that we continue to collaborate and explore outside of our companies, industry and sector."

"The Government has announced the intention to use the forthcoming industrial strategy to mark our path forward for the UK, particularly given the decision to leave the European Union. We believe that life sciences should be central to that industrial strategy, and that critical to that strategy will be exploration about how the UK can be a global leader in the practices that will help us to be open for innovation," added Dr Weir.