Improving the effectiveness of the UK’s medical innovation ecosystem

In light of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy’s ambitious goals, Dr Michael Hopkins (SPRU – Science Policy Research Unit) sets out to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the UK’s medical innovation ecosystem in a new policy brief.

Drawing on research findings published in his book Science, the State and the City (Owen, Hopkins. 2016), Dr Hopkins looks at the success of US biotech firms to understand where the UK’s life sciences industry is falling short.

One of the Life Science Strategy’s aims – over the next ten years – is to develop four companies within the sector with a market capitalisation in excess of £20bn. But Hopkins’ and Owen’s book reveals that the UK has generated only one such firm since 1980.

The research finds that a combination of factors have made the US a uniquely supportive environment for biotech firms (in comparison to the UK), including:

  • Higher levels of government investment
  • A larger and more diverse market for healthcare
  • A greater quantity and size of venture capital funds, willing to invest greater amounts
  • More specialist expertise in the industry
  • Success of early US biotech firms, which resulted in a virtuous cycle of reinvestment

Although these factors are difficult for smaller economies such as the UK to imitate, the briefing outlines ways in which public investment in science could be used to boost the performance of the UK’s life sciences industry.

Read the policy brief: Improving the effectiveness of the UK’s medical innovation ecosystem [PDF 244KB]

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