Medicines manufacturing has the potential to drive UK growth over the next 10 years
Recent successes in supplying high-value medicines and in advanced therapies manufacture must be built on, if the UK is to win the global battle to attract commercial medicines manufacturing and reverse the loss of a major UK export industry, according to a cross-industry coalition.
A new report from the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership. (MMIP), ‘Fulfilling the potential identified in the Government’s Life Sciences Vision' shows that medicines and medical technology manufacturing currently deliver annual exports worth over £30bn for the UK, on top of making a £32.1 billion (gross value added or GVA) contribution to UK economic output in 2019. This is the largest GVA contribution from the life sciences sector.
The UK has productive life sciences manufacturing clusters across the UK and recent significant investments made by companies in the UK show the value of the sector for regional economic development.
However, the UK has also seen a significant loss of traditional medicines manufacturing capacity over the last 25 years, with 7000 jobs lost and a fall in production volumes of 29% since 2009. It has also seen the global proportion of capital investment fall dramatically in the last few years.
Since 2010, the UK has fallen from 4th to 98th place in overall trade balance in pharmaceuticals, due to fierce global competition, with many similar countries, including Ireland, France and Germany, also focussing on boosting manufacturing productivity, output and exports.
The Government has set out its ambition to create a globally competitive environment for Life Sciences manufacturing investments as part of its Life Sciences Vision (LSV). There have been very positive government initiatives and investment programmes designed to support the sector such as the Life Sciences Innovative Manufacturing Fund and developing the Catapult innovation network.
The MMIP believes it can be a strong partner to Government in developing a clear, long-term vision for manufacturing growth to help the UK remain internationally competitive. Global competition for investment is growing as many other countries are seeking to boost medicines manufacturing post-pandemic.
The MMIP believes UK can be global leaders in sustainable medicines manufacturing. There is an opportunity for the UK to lead global development, new technologies and metrics of medicines manufacturing sustainability goals for both the NHS and companies.
Growing the manufacturing skills base is another key element to attract future investments is highlighted by the report. By 2026, cell and gene roles are predicted to increase by 117% over 2021, with bioprocessing roles set to rise by 151%.
We will need to develop a skills plan to the 1000’s of people with the right skills to fill these roles, through making sure that schools, universities apprenticeships and immigration visa programs support the future growth strategy.
Brian Henry, Chair of the MMIP said:
“The UK can be the best place in the world to manufacture new, advanced medicines, but it is currently losing out on investments and exports, as well as jobs, to international competitors
“We will produce a blueprint for Government to encourage thriving and vibrant pharmaceutical manufacturing sector in the coming years, and I would urge Ministers to work with us on developing it and create a long-term strategy to develop UK medicines manufacturing.”
The MMIP will work with Government on the areas set out in the report to deliver benefits for the economy, industry, and ultimately patients.
Other recommendations for restoring the UK as a medicines manufacturing global centre will focus the long-term strategy on:
- The opportunities for global leadership in Net Zero life sciences manufacturing
- Build resilience to future health threats through a diverse and adaptable domestic manufacturing base
- Use medicines manufacturing as a tool for economic growth and levelling up
This can be achieved through:
Creating the right fiscal environment. There are many factors that influence investment decisions in Life Sciences manufacturing, the tax and fiscal environment of a country is often decisive in securing international investments. Therefore, the report calls for:
- Optimising research and development tax reliefs: The announced increase to the Research and Development Expenditure Credit (RDEC) rate from 13% to 20% during the 2022 Autumn Statement represents an extremely positive step, however, recent announcements to downgrade the SME Tax Credit represents a major blow to smaller businesses and scaleups.
The UK’s unique Life Sciences ecosystem relies on the strength and interplay of large and small companies, including support for scaleup and manufacturing. Regressive measures within one scheme could therefore dampen potential gains which could be achieved from progressive changes to the other.
A holistic approach to growing the manufacturing skills base. The evolving and growing skills base required to make the UK Life Sciences manufacturing sector successful requires a more organised approach to attract diverse talent in areas of current and future demand, including:
- Encouraging and enabling transferrable skills from outside the sector
- Funding and incentivisation to support skills development across our education landscape
- The implementation of skills hubs in potential ‘cluster’ locations
Transforming medicines manufacturing through innovation. The MMIP has successfully promoted UK medicines manufacture through innovation and believes we can further our UK ambitions;
- Transforming the design, control and testing of complex manufacturing processes through a focus on robotics, automation and predictive science
- The UK has built a great reputation for furthering the manufacturer of advanced therapies via the Catapult Innovation centres and these represent a strength to build on.
- The UK could become a global leader in developing more sustainable medicine manufacturing processes through technology interventions on the more carbon intensive steps of the process