Science is thriving in UK regions: Government must back them say ABPI, BHP and CBI

The government, academia, and industry leaders must work together to support and develop regional life science ecosystems to meet the double ambitions of making the UK a global science superpower and levelling up the country to provide opportunity for all. 

A report by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), Birmingham Health Partners (BHP) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), shines a light on one region – the West Midlands.

The picture is one of huge potential for the West Midlands life sciences ecosystem, with an opportunity to be on par with the UK’s Golden Triangle of Cambridge, London and Oxford, and innovations clusters in the US.  However, a concerted effort is needed to tackle the region’s challenges if it is to realise its potential.  

BHP cluster

The authors point to existing areas of business innovation, global leadership and BHP’s unique ecosystem that enables the full spectrum of translational medicine, encompassing health data, an established local health system, academic excellence and an extensive clinical trials capability- including:  

  • The West Midlands has an unrivalled breadth and depth of researchers in the field of women’s health.  Their work is putting Birmingham Women’s Hospital at the forefront of innovation in maternal and women’s health, allowing the development and testing of new therapies and interventions that are transforming the lives of women not only in Birmingham but across the world.
  • The University of Birmingham’s Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU) is a global leader in paediatric cancer and clinical trials, for example, working with pharma company Bayer, to deliver new research into treatments for a rare type of childhood cancer.
  • University Hospitals Birmingham is an NHS Global Digital Exemplar, working closely with Health Data Research UK and biomedical and health informatics researchers to improve care pathways, redesign service provision and develop and test new treatments.
  • The region is also developing the Birmingham Health Innovation Campus, to leverage the existing integrated BHP ecosystem and drive innovation, improved health outcomes and economic growth. For example the Precision Healthcare Technologies Accelerator (PHTA), part of the innovation campus, is a unique centre addressing translational medicine needs in devices, diagnostics and therapeutics. 

The report sets out recommendations based on five core themes, each with opportunities and systematic barriers. If these recommendations are implemented in full, the region could play a significant role in delivering the government’s Life Sciences Vision of making UK a leading global hub for life sciences: 

  1. Attracting R&D investment
  2. Heath inequalities
  3. Pandemic response
  4. Leadership
  5. Collaboration

The region punches above its weight despite research showing that level of R&D investment per head in the West Midlands lags behind other areas of the UK, with the average West Midlands resident only receiving £20 per head in government funding. Despite this disparity in funding from central government, the sector employs over 10,000 people, and is a significant driver of economic growth in the region. However, over a 10-year period, the West Midlands was the only English region which did not see a net increase in employment in the life sciences industry.

Read the press release

Read the report in full