Untapped resources for UK life science company start-ups

15 Oct 2010

A new report shows that there are vast, untapped opportunities to start up and develop life science companies across the UK.

The report, UK Life Science Start-up Report 2010 [1], helps to identify these opportunities and calls for any public investment to be better targeted at four UK ‘hot spots’. It also highlights opportunities for investors in the sector across the UK.

The report classified the sector into biopharma and medical technology startups, which constitute 56% and 44% of companies respectively.

The report, by Mobius Life Sciences Fund and BioCity Nottingham is the first comprehensive study of early stage life science firms and specifically looks at the levels of University spin-out activity, the geographic spread of early-stage and subsequent investments, the role of bio-business incubators and the likely opportunities presented by the re-structuring of the global pharmaceutical industry.

Key report findings:

  • one third of the life science start ups launched between 2005 – 2009 were generated by universities;
  • the life science research power of a university has a strong bearing on the levels of spin out and patent activity, although the resources applied by a university to technology transfer and its strategic importance also play a role;
  • high levels of university life science research activity in a region correlate well with the overall level of life science business activity;
  • on average around 36% of start ups reported receiving investment;
  • the UK average aggregate investment per company was £3.3 million. In the South East the average was £12 million; in West Midlands, Yorkshire and Wales the average was £0.5 million;
  • 75% of investment into life science companies is within 70 miles of the Houses of Parliament, although 53% of the nation’s life science research strength and business activity lies outside this area;
  • nearly half of the starts ups formed in the last five years are based in a bio-incubator or bio-park;
  • 63% of companies that received investment were based in bioincubators and these companies gained over twice the funds as those not in bioincubators; and
  • almost 80% of life science start up activity is concentrated in just four areas in the UK.

“There is no getting away from the fact that this country needs to invest if it wants a successful bioscience industry, but historically the jam has been spread too thinly,” says report author Dr Glenn Crocker. “It’s not simply about how many start ups are created; it’s about how well university research is turned into business opportunities and the start in life that the companies achieve.

“By focussing greater effort on technology transfer and providing a powerful spinout structure for our seedling ventures we are likely to nurture more, successful firms.

"Moreover, given the likely reduction in public funds, what remains should be concentrated in the four ‘hot-spot’ regions of Edinburgh/ Glasgow; M1 Corridor of Leeds, Sheffield and Nottingham; Manchester/ Liverpool and London/Oxford/Cambridge, so more can be achieved from targeted government intervention.

"These areas also contain almost all of the UK’s bioscience business incubators, a network ideally placed to help with large pharma outsourcing, as well as delivering government-funded support.”

Lucy P Marcus, who chairs the Mobius Life Science Fund and is a BioCity Board member, brings further corporate investment and venture funding knowledge to the research: “Investment in life sciences is essential and in times of ever decreasing funding, knowing where investment can be the most effective and have the greatest impact is essential. This report will help bring some clarity to investment choices, both with public and private money.”

The UK Life Science Start-up report will be published each year based on a rolling five-year period in order to undertake further trend analysis.


Crocker G. Opportunity: UK Life Science Start-up report 2010. Biocity Nottingham and Mobius Life Science Fund. 2010. The report is available from www.biocity.co.uk/  Direct link to the report: http://tinyurl.com/BioCity-StartUp-Report


To top