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The BioIndustry Association (BIA) welcomes the Government response to the Review and Refresh of Bioscience 2015 however cautions against over optimism ahead of delivery on the most important recommendations of the report.
The BIA was a key industry partner in the Review and Refresh of Bioscience 2015 published in January 2009 following a year’s work of a broad coalition of stakeholders, chaired by Sir David Cooksey.
Government has today published its response to each of the 23 recommendations in the report. The Review has given a much needed focus and emphasis to the UK’s world-class bioscience sector.
The Government has responded positively to some of the longer-term recommendations around regulation, such as taking leadership on the EU Clinical Trials Directive, and making stratified diseases an important area of activity.
As previously announced in the budget, the review of taxation relating to innovation, is another initiative which could potentially reap benefits for the sector in the future. The recognition of the importance of regenerative medicine and bioprocessing is also to be applauded.
However, those recommendations relating to finance, such as the establishment of an innovation fund, changes to R&D tax credits and EIS and VCT schemes, and the consideration of incentives to encourage pharmaceutical company investment in biotechnology companies, have been overlooked or rejected.
This is extremely disappointing and gravely concerning at a time of unprecedented financing challenges for bioscience companies. It remains unclear whether the Strategic Investment Fund, again referenced in the foreword to the report, will materialise into the high tech innovation fund this industry needs.
Without Government support in this area, the Government’s own vision for “the medical biotechnology industry… to play a key role in driving our economy in the future” is not achievable.
Clive Dix, Chairman of the BIA commented: “We recognise that Government has done much to support the sector since 1997, and welcome the Government’s willingness to tackle some of the longer-term issues identified in the Bioscience 2015 Review report. However, overall we do not feel that the Government’s responses have gone far enough, and are particularly disappointed that the issue of access to finance has not been addressed at this critical time.
“We welcome the Secretary of State’s reference today to a review of further intervention to support growth capital for SMEs, but this needs to be done urgently. We also need urgent clarification as to how the £750 million Strategic Investment Fund, whose advent we welcomed, will be deployed.
“What I am being told daily by members is that for biotech to become a new driver of growth and prosperity and play a leading role in driving our economy, as Government wishes, then company financing still need to be addressed.
“The realisation of the vision that Government articulates again today depends on clarity on funding as soon as possible. We are in a critical period where detail and specifics are everything.”