The UK’s life sciences sector is evidently not such an unattractive place to invest in; figures released by government body UK Trade & Investment show that 133 projects stemmed from foreign companies in the year 2006/7, up 37% on the number in 2005/6.

And the picture is similar for the whole of the UK, with a record 1,431 investment projects from overseas marking a 17% jump over the prior year, creating 36,000 new jobs created and safeguarding 41,000.

Around 70,000 people work in the UK’s pharmaceutical industry, a third of these in R&D, and all of the world’s top ten pharmaceutical companies have operations - including substantial R&D and manufacturing muscle - in the country, the report says,

In 2006 alone, GlaxoSmithKline, world number two, injected a further £25 million into its manufacturing plant in Montrose, Scotland, while AstraZeneca, world number three, is shelling out £60 million on expanding its oncology research centre in Cheshire, further demonstrating a strong commitment to the UK as a research and manufacturing base.

Second to USA

And five of the world’s top 20 medicines were developed in the UK, a significant achievement considering that this is second only to the USA, and more than the rest of Europe combined. Furthermore, UK companies now account for 40% of biotechnology products in the pipeline by European public companies, and some 45% of new biotechnology drugs in late-stage clinical trials in Europe are from the country, the figures show.

Much is being done to keep the UK’s life sciences environment competitive as other regions become more attractive to investors. For example, R&D investment continues to receive favourable tax treatment, with tax credits of 150% for small and medium-sized companies and 125% for larger businesses. And, in the last ten years, the government has more than doubled the funding for basic science to £3.4 billion to keep the UK at the forefront of research and innovation, and has also earmarked £134 million over four years to increase the number of clinical trials conducted via the NHS.