The Government has announced a new innovation and knowledge centre for synthetic biology. Details are not yet clear, but they include a £6.5m competition. The aim is to help to turn academic ideas into commercial products. The £180m Medical Research Council and Technology Strategy Board’s Biomedical Catalyst fund, which was set up last December and designed to encourage small business and universities come up with new healthcare solutions, has recently made its first payments.
The BioIndustry Association, which represents many small innovative pharma sector businesses, has welcomed the moves but called for further changes. In particular, it would like to see a Citizens’ Innovation Fund, in which private investors invest in UK innovation. The BIA believes such a scheme could raise £300m a year. BIA Chief Executive, Steve Bates, said: “The BIA believes that CIFs would unlock the patriotic potential of British savers to support innovative new businesses.”
However, Paul Gershlick, a Partner and Head of Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences at Matthew Arnold & Baldwin LLP, is sceptical. He says: “Money is already available to invest in good innovations. However, ultimately, whether it is a corporate or individual investor, they want to know the same answer to the same question: are we going to see a return on our investment? It’s about money rather than patriotism that determines investment decisions. In an environment of large costs, high failure rates and uncertainty of trial results, take-ups and pricing in innovative healthcare products, it is easy to see why many investors look to make easier returns on their money.”