UK government announces £90m new funds for life sciences commercialisation

5 December 2011

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a package of support for the UK’s leading life science companies and academia to enable them to move more quickly from discovery to commercialisation.

The new three-year programme will see the Technology Strategy Board receive additional funding of £90 million, which will be aligned with existing Medical Research Council academic translational funding, providing a programme valued at £180 million. The programme will be managed jointly by the Technology Strategy Board and the Medical Research Council.

The aim of the Biomedical Catalyst fund will be to deliver growth to the UK life sciences sector through supporting and driving the development of innovative life sciences products and services. Support will be available to both academically and commercially led research and development.

The fund aims to provide seamless support, from initial research in universities through to commercial development in small- and medium-sized companies, from incubating innovations in academia to supporting and accelerating companies’ innovative product and process developments.

Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said:
“This joint programme will leverage the strength of the science base for business by encouraging greater collaboration. We will work in partnership with the Medical Research Council, focussing on areas such as regenerative medicine, stratified healthcare and emerging medical technologies.”

Sir John Savill, chief executive of the Medical Research Council (MRC) said: “The MRC welcomes this additional support and we look forward to working with the Technology Strategy Board to promote productive partnerships between MRC-funded scientists and high technology companies, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs). In particular, the MRC are keen to help SMEs to engage more with clinical proof of concept studies, where partnerships with academic research groups and patient participation are vital.”

The number of organisations involved in the life sciences sector in the UK is increasing and the emerging “open innovation” model of research and development results in companies engaging with the wider research environment. While this encourages creativity and innovation, it also means it is now more important than ever to ensure that public investment is maximised and supports the most promising developments, for both patient benefit and commercial success.

The Biomedical Catalyst fund will link to existing Medical Research Council translational programmes and Technology Strategy Board activities, providing a "seamless" set of support and funding options. The programme will provide staged investment, while also allowing applications that are already partly developed to enter the “pathway” at any suitable stage. It will provide a well publicised, simple funding scheme, with rigorous scientific, clinical and commercial tests, that gives credibility and visibility to help companies to move more quickly to commercial success, revenues and sustainability.

The Medical Research Council and the Technology Strategy Board say they will work closely with key stakeholders to develop the most efficient and effective solutions to deliver the new programme of support.

Comment: The UK research funding application process is notoriously bureaucratic and time consuming, taking up too much time of senior researchers, so it will be welcome news if this hurdle is also overcome.


To top