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House of Lords Committee report draws on SPRU research

A Select Committee report, titled ‘Life Sciences Industrial Strategy: Who’s driving the bus?’ (published April 2018), has extensively cited research by Director of Research at SPRU, Dr Michael Hopkins.

An inquiry into Life Sciences and Industrial Strategy was launched in July 2017 by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee in response to the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper. The inquiry aims to investigate issues such as the Government’s capability to support the life sciences sector, how the NHS can stimulate innovation in this area and to look at the successes and failures of the Government’s 2011 Life Sciences Strategy.

In October 2017, Dr Hopkins attended a meeting with Norman Lamb MP, Parliamentary Science & Technology Select Committee staff and staff from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), where he presented his policy brief: ‘Improving the effectiveness of the UK’s medical innovation ecosystem’. Dr Hopkins also provided oral evidence to the House of Lords Science & Technology Committee in late 2017.

Dr Hopkins’ policy brief and evidence drew on a book he co-authored with Sir Geoffrey Owen, Science, the State and the City: Britain’s Struggle to succeed in Biotechnology (published April 2016). The book examines the history of the UK biotech industry, the success of the US within this industry, and why it has been so difficult for firms in other countries to replicate this.

In their report, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee discuss the UK’s difficulty in growing life sciences firms in comparison to the US. Dr Hopkins’ policy brief also focused on this issue by examining the UK’s ability to develop and sustain new science-based firms in light of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy – a report to UK Government from the Life Sciences sector (known as the Bell report) – which contains a goal to develop four companies within the sector with a market capitalisation in excess of £20bn in the next ten years. The House of Lords report refers to how “Dr Michael Hopkins and Dr Geoffrey Owen showed, the UK has generated only one such firm since 1980” and goes on to cite Dr Hopkins further:

“In the US only 10 companies of that size have emerged since the mid 1970s and its sector is currently 10 times larger than the UK, in term of the public companies … Of course, a decade is a long time. It is possible that the pound could devalue to some extent … It is also conceivable that large pharmaceutical companies, such as AstraZeneca or GSK, could spin out large businesses, but it is certainly a very ambitious target as it stands.” (P.26)

In the report the Committee also discuss the importance of how the Bell report is implemented and the Government’s role in this. In Chapter 2, the ‘Challenges of Implementation’ they say:

“Only the Government can lead the process of drawing up an implementation plan against which the Government, the NHS and industry can be held accountable. The implementation plan can then be delivered by an independent body, as suggested by Dr Michael Hopkins, Senior Lecturer at the Science Policy Research Unit, Sussex University.” (P.11)

This is further re-iterated in their Conclusions and Recommendations where they “recommend the creation of a new statutory body, the Office for Industrial Strategy (OfIS)” who would have the authority to oversee the implementation of the Life Sciences industrial Strategy.

By: Katherine Davies
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Last updated: Thursday, 14 June 2018