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Life Sciences

Volume 583: debated on Thursday 26 June 2014

We are promoting research and development, innovation and manufacturing so the UK is a global leader in life sciences. Businesses in life sciences have announced more than £2 billion of investment since our strategy was launched.

Following my right hon. Friend’s recent visit with me to see cutting edge 3D print technology at BD’s plant in Swindon, will he work with me to help the further development of high-value specialist manufacturing at companies such as BD, Patheon and Catalent, which form an important part of Swindon’s life sciences sector?

I remember vividly that visit last month and congratulate my hon. Friend on his very good working relationships with local employers. He is right that our life sciences strategy is not simply about research and development, important though that is. It is also about supporting high-tech manufacturing and promoting more of that in the UK.

In the run-up to the election, it is important that we try to maximise consensus across the House on science policy. To help the debate, we launched our Green Paper on science on Tuesday, and I welcome the Royal Society’s report today. It is important to be honest about where we are, though. Life science investment has fallen, according to the Library, by almost £500 million since 2010. In the last year for which data are available, total R and D spending in the UK is down by nearly £1 billion. We are now 23rd out of 33 for R and D spending in the OECD. Why does the Minister think that is? I am sure he will agree that this is not the way to win a race to the top.

A major change is happening in the structure of the life sciences industry, with it moving away from having large, in-house R and D facilities. That trend is happening around the world. We have been particularly successful in this country in making sure that as that happens we promote alternative investment, and we are now seeing—for example, in the facility that Pfizer operated in Kent—significant renewal as new, small businesses come in. Our life sciences strategy is attracting new investment to the UK—£2 billion of it since we launched the strategy.