Blog: Growing the UK as a global hub for life sciences

Last updated on 5 May 2023

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Conference 2023, where the buzz of excitement and anticipation around the UK's life sciences sector was palpable.

The conference kicked off with a surprise message from the Prime Minister and keynote speeches from high-profile figures, including the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Shadow Secretary of State for Business.

The conference covered three main themes, each highlighting the importance of the life sciences sector to the UK's economy and patients: research and development as an engine for growth, improving the health and productivity of the UK, and building the UK's global strengths.

Throughout the conference, there was an overwhelmingly positive sense of excitement about the current and future potential of the UK life sciences sector. The UK boasts one of the world's strongest life sciences industries, with a powerful partnership between industry, academia and our national health services.

We also benefit from a flexible and pro-innovation regulatory environment, thanks in part to the HRA's efforts. A vibrant and successful UK life sciences sector not only provides significant economic benefits but is also crucial to UK patients and the public. Without a thriving life sciences sector, today's patients and the public cannot take part in research relevant to them, and tomorrow's patients and the public cannot benefit from the results of that research.

However, the conference didn't shy away from the challenges. Speakers spoke of the issues of study set-up and adoption of new medicines, as well as the upcoming negotiations between the government, NHS England, and the pharmaceutical industry on the successor to the voluntary scheme for branded medicines, pricing, and access (VPAS).

The negotiations will be critical to achieving the goal of growing the UK as a global hub for life sciences. But despite the difficult discussions ahead, all parties were positive and productive.

As both the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Prime Minister emphasized, the successor to the current scheme must deliver for the taxpayer, patients, the NHS and the life sciences sector.

There was also much discussion about the eagerly awaited publication of Lord O'Shaughnessy's review of commercial clinical trials. The review is expected to make ambitious recommendations to boost the UK's global competitiveness for late phase trials.

While the government will provide a formal response, the HRA has played a significant role in the review process, and we are excited about how the recommendations could support our objectives of accelerating approvals and study setup.

Overall, the conference was a testament to the UK's impressive achievements in the life sciences sector and the exciting potential for growth in the years to come.

A headshot of Dr Matt Westmore

Matt Westmore

Chief Executive, Health Research Authority
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