Opportunity knocks for life science and tech's untapped potential
Peter Kyle and Wes Streeting have announced Labour’s plans to turbo-charge the UK’s life science and tech sectors. This would boost sector investment by £10bn a year, alongside ambitious plans to streamline innovation.
If the general election goes their way, the proposals could create 77,500 jobs, make better use of NHS patient data, and shore up the falling of investment into the UK’s pharma sector since 2012.
Whilst this announcement was lauded by the industry, there was still broad consensus with the Conservatives’ aims to establish the UK as a scientific and technology superpower by 2030. Kyle said Labour will retain some regulatory and economic policies, like R&D tax credits and the Life Sciences Council but will root out delays through the creation of a new Regulatory Innovation Office.
Another key delay that is putting the brakes on innovation and hindering growth is more physical – the chronic shortage of lab space in the UK. Kyle warned spinouts and start-ups are falling at the first hurdle, with their potential for innovation constrained, and promised to “get the planning system sorted” by speeding up consent.
Across the “Golden Triangle” – between Cambridge, London, and Oxford – the sector is on the lookout for over 2 million square feet of lab space, according to Knight Frank. In footie terms, that’s comparable to all the pitches in the Premier League and the Championship put together!
What do we want? Labs! When do we want them? Yesterday!
Whilst the general election could be a while off yet, we’re already seeing the built environment making strides to tackle this shortfall.
According to data from the Architects’ Journal, there was a tripling in the value of UK laboratory project starts over the past decade – from £174m in 2013, to £574m in 2022. However, over the past year, it has gone into overdrive, and now totals £966m.
Exciting projects, including the formation of the Oxford to Cambridge Pan Regional Partnership, the retrofitting of lab space in Canary Wharf, and GSK’s £900 million investment in Stevenage, exemplify the pent-up potential.
Peter Kyle’s life sciences plan signals the Opposition’s ambition for the sector, and adequately addresses the need to tackle the current supply-demand imbalance in the UK’s lab and R&D space.
The plan’s success will not only hinge upon their results at the ballot, but also on the seamless integration of innovation, funding, and policy reform across public and private sectors.
If realised, however, it could bring about a golden age for life sciences in the UK; transforming the built environment into an engine of innovation, sustainability, and economic prosperity.