The UK’s life sciences industry has welcomed aspects of chancellor Philip Hammond’s first Autumn statement and the government’s commitment to creating an industrial strategy which supports science and innovation, to help the sector retain its standing on the global stage following Brexit.
A key element of the strategy going forward is a new National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF), which is to provide £23 billion of spending between 2017/18 and 2021/22 to help raise productivity and living standards, £4.7 billion of which has been allocated to enhancing the UK’s position as a world leader in science and innovation.
New science and innovation spending through the Fund is to be distributed through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which aims to support collaboration between business and the UK science and back priority technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence, and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which will, when established, award funding to increase research capacity and business innovation.
The chancellor also reiterated the promise of £100 million to extend and enhance the Biomedical Catalyst and £100 million to incentivise university collaboration in tech transfer and working with business.
Elsewhere, the government will undertake a review of the current tax system including R&D tax credits to secure the global competitiveness of the UK as a destination for scientists, innovators and investors, and, as previously laid out in 2016’s Budget, corporation tax will drop to 17 percent by 2020. The Treasury will also look at barriers to accessing long-term finance for growing enterprises.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has welcomed the plans. “The Chancellor has given us an Autumn Statement that delivers for science and innovation and emphasises the importance of the UK pharmaceutical industry to the strength of our economy,” said chief executive Mike Thompson.
“Significant investment into research and development will strengthen our position as the global leader in medicines discovery. As we negotiate the UK’s exit from the European Union this focus on future innovation could not be more timely and is a clear signal to companies world-wide that the UK is open for business,” he added, but also stressed: “If we are serious about making the UK the go-to place for research and development we must also focus on turning these investments into the innovative treatments that will improve the lives of patients in the UK.”
A BioIndustry Association blog also applauded the “continued commitment to research and development and the promise of a ‘substantial increase in grant funding through Innovate UK’,” as well as “the focus on improving the R&D tax credit regime and access to patient capital”.
No new money for NHS, social care
However, the NHS and social care were notably absent from the Statement, as calls for extra funds to help tackle the growing crises in service provision seemingly fell on deaf ears.
The Treasury has missed a “golden opportunity” to ease strain on the NHS, said head of the NHS Confederation Stephen Dalton. “Our staff delivering services on the frontline this winter will find it extraordinary that the government has turned a blind eye to the stresses and strains being felt in the health and social care system”.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) also said it is “extremely disappointed” with the lack of new funds for health and social care.
“We, along with other parties, have repeatedly highlighted the need for extra funding for social care – in addition to better funding for Emergency Medicine – in order to tackle the growing pressures on staff in emergency departments (EDs). This has been ignored”.
“We are yet to fully feel the impacts of the winter season but already our EDs are under greater pressure than the same period last year. Offering only rhetoric instead of appropriate funding will do nothing to fix the problems facing emergency departments – or social care – this winter, and will be scant consolation for the families of patients whose lives are being put at risk.”
By Selina McKee
Source: Pharma Times
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