UK Research ‘Driving Global Life Science Industry’

Britain is such a big influence in the global life science industry thanks to thriving research and development (R&D) initiatives at its top universities.

Britain is such a big influence in the global life science industry thanks to thriving research and development (R&D) initiatives at its top universities.

When it comes to life science progress, the UK provides some of the most important studies that are then used to help scientists make breakthroughs. Indeed, it publishes 6.4 per cent of international research articles, despite having less than one per cent of the world’s population.

According to the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), Britain’s university academics are the main reason behind this, particularly as the UK is home to some of the best higher education establishments in the world.

These include The University of Oxford, The University of Cambridge, University College London (UCL) and Imperial College London, which are all in the global top ten, according to the QS World University Rankings.

Having scientists at these – and other British – universities pursuing studies to further R&D, as well as working closely with industry professionals, are big factors that help the UK have an increasingly influential presence in the life science sector.

ICR’s director of the Enterprise Unit Dr Angela Kukula said the institute is the highest-ranked education facility in Britain for many reasons.

She stated: “That’s thanks to a range of factors, relating to our own internal culture – our focus on innovation, translating our discoveries to the clinic, and our cadre of world-leading cancer researchers – and external influences, including a thriving life-science industry in London and the south east of England.”

She also noted the significance of medical research charities, including Cancer Research UK and Wellcome that provide finances to enable more R&D to take place, as well as the NHS, as this helps take treatments from the laboratory to the hospital.

“Many clinical trials that change worldwide clinical practice are only possible here at the interface between UK higher education institutions and our NHS,” Dr Kukula commented.

The government also plays a huge role in encouraging life science developments, as it ploughs money into the sector. It even contributed more to R&D in 2017 than any other country in Europe, second globally only to the USA that year.

This investment is only set to grow, with the government’s Industrial Strategy intending to raise R&D expenditure to 2.4 per cent of GDP over the next eight years.

Of course, impending Brexit could affect the life science sector, just as it could any other industry in the UK.

One of the ways leaving the European Union (EU) could impact R&D is by causing the number of people working in the sector to fall. There have already been signs of this since former Prime Minister Theresa May failed to secure a Brexit deal with the EU last March.

Despite the UK’s employment rate having been rising consistently since June to August 2018, it actually fell by 0.1 percentage points between March and May 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics. This could have been the result of political uncertainty as negotiations for an exit strategy lingered on past the official March 29th deadline.

While this is concerning, Dr Kukala commented that the UK is in a “good position to continue as a leader in life sciences”, regardless of the Brexit outcome.

She stated: “Although Brexit could cause many challenges … the UK’s strengths, from our university sector to our NHS, will not go away.”

This is good news for those looking for life science permanent recruitment. To find out more about a job in this sector, get in touch with us today.