The life sciences sector faces a ‘moment of truth’ according to a report produced for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) by PwC.

While it has the infrastructure, science base and skills to retain – and build – its position as a world-leading hub for medicines development and discovery, governments need to act swiftly to fend off competition from countries like France and Germany who have become more adept at attracting investment.

The report, Life Sciences Superpower, shows the opportunities that investment in life sciences can bring to patients, the NHS and the economy.  While there are some good individual examples of investment, the overall picture shows that manufacturing, clinical research and exports are all in decline, whilst competitor countries have strengthened their life science bases.

The report quantifies the size of the prize across the UK if we could emulate the successes of leading EU countries. It suggests:

Creating the right business environment:
Creating the right business environment: Increasing the UK’s percentage of global pharmaceutical exports from 4.3 per cent to 8.3 per cent, in line with Belgium or Ireland would bring £16.3 billion in GDP and create 85,000 new jobs.

Building on our science and clinical research infrastructure:
By raising pharmaceutical research and development investment in the UK to a per-capita level comparable with that of the US, an extra £7.2 billion investment would be channelled to the sector each year. That adds up to more than £68 billion over the next 30 years. 

Additionally, by improving our share of global commercial clinical trial enrolment to levels consistent with leading countries, like Spain, the analysis shows that around £165 million in additional revenues and £32 million in additional savings for the NHS could be achieved across the UK each year. 

Tackling future healthcare challenges:
By improving performance we could cut the UK health burden by 40 per cent.

By emulating countries including Singapore, Norway and Switzerland across disease areas including dementia, cancers, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease alone, we could reduce the UK’s 6.5 million DALYs – disability-adjusted life years, which measure disease years lost due to ill-health, disability, or early death – to 2.6 million DALYs. 

It is vital that Scotland plays its part in supporting the life sciences sector to reach its potential. 

The First Minister and Deputy Chief Medical Officer both spoke at the National Innovation event at Murrayfield on 7 July of the importance of collaboration between industry, academia and the NHS to deliver better patient outcomes, and underlined the value of innovation to NHS recovery. 

As a sector that already provides around 48,000 jobs in Scotland, life sciences could also be key to helping deliver Scotland’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation and the soon
to be published Innovation Strategy. However, we need to see the Scottish Government take a strong leadership role and push forward investment and policies that will address the challenges facing the sector.

There is no doubt that with the right support, the life sciences sector can help Scotland deliver its ambition of being a world leader in innovation and achieve economic growth.

Partner content in association with ABPI