Brexit: Theresa May pledges £160m to healthcare research sector

Proposed plans from the Prime Minister suggest an increase in research and development over the next four years as Brexit looms

John Lauerman
Wednesday 30 August 2017 09:46 BST
Prime Minister Theresa May's plans to support the UK's health research industry is revealed
Prime Minister Theresa May's plans to support the UK's health research industry is revealed (AP)

The UK government proposed spending £160m to support medical research and health care as Theresa May seeks to assuage concerns about the economic impact of the nation’s looming departure from the European Union.

In the first phase of investment, the Government will spend £146m to support innovation in manufacturing, development of vaccines and advanced treatments, and research by small and medium-sized companies, Business Secretary Greg Clark said on Wednesday.

The funding is part of May’s proposed £4.7bn increase in research and development spending over four years.

The government’s plans were disclosed alongside recommendations by the UK’s life sciences industry on supporting the £64bn sector through funding for basic science and a tax policy that supports growth, among other measures.

Those findings, in a report commissioned by the government and prepared by University of Oxford professor John Bell, will form the basis for a so-called sector deal in coming months.

“The life sciences sector is of critical importance to the UK economy and UK health,” Clark said in a statement. The industry, identified by May’s administration as one of five that are vital to the economy, includes more than 5,000 companies and employs almost 235,000 people.

The Government’s funding will leverage more than £250m of investment from businesses, according to the statement, which didn’t disclose additional details.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt also announced £14m in funding for medical technology research centres to improve collaboration between companies and the UK’s taxpayer-funded health care system.

Easing the path to clinical trials needed for drug approvals and making better use of patient data collected through the NHS were among the steps recommended in the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy report authored by Mr Bell, who also serves as chairman of the UK Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research.

Mr Bell called for emulating areas like Boston and Silicon Valley with strong connections between big drugmakers, small startups, and universities.

“We have created a strategy which capitalises on our strong science base to further build the industry into a globally-unique and internationally competitive life sciences eco-system,” said Bell.

Several billion pounds in government and industry investment will be needed to make the plan a success, Mr Bell said Wednesday in an interview.

The full report will be released on Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said.


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