In 2011 the Government published an Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth, setting out how it will work with business and the knowledge base to underpin private sector led growth, and the strategy for the life sciences, outlining how the Government will take action to make the UK a world-leading place for life sciences investment.
Both documents allude to the difficulties of translating research into commercial application, and the economic risks and opportunities this brings. These are no more apparent than in the Pharmaceutical industry; ‘big pharma’ (i.e. multinational drugs companies such as GSK and Pfizer) which have closed down research centres in the UK in recent years. Society of Biology CEO Dr Mark Downs has contributed to a series of articles for Research Fortnight on these issues.
Commercialisation of Research
The Society of Biology, in collaboration with our member organisations, responded to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry on Bridging the “valley of death”: improving the commercialisation of research.
Summary of the response;
- The UK is a world-leading research nation with tremendous potential for science-led innovation and growth. Our leadership position may be threatened by the expanding number of researchers globally and by our relatively declining rate of national investment in research.
- Translational research in the life sciences offers great opportunity for growth but capitalising on this is typically a long-term and complex process for which funding is difficult to secure. Government should incentivize and support investment in early stage development research.
- The Growth Strategy rightly identifies that infrastructure investments needed for the future do not align with amounts available from traditional sources of finances; however the Government needs to set out measures to address these challenges and how this will work with current funding streams to produce economic gain.
- Collaboration helps to reduce risk, shares costs and brings in expertise, key skills and knowledge.This should be facilitated across university departments, between research institutions, and with a combination of government initiatives, industry and charitable support.
- Academics who engage in translational research should be recognised and rewarded appropriately, and supported in respect of filing IP and as founders of spin-out companies.