How has the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy benefited us in Cambridge?
The life science marketing specialists from Histon-based BioStrata write for the Cambridge Independent.
If a week is a long time in politics, then more than enough time has passed to take stock of what the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy has achieved for Cambridge, and the opportunities it continues to offer to local businesses.
After all, it is more than seven months since the Government’s Life Sciences Champion Professor Sir John Bell published the Strategy, with his recommendations for securing the long-term success of the UK’s life science sector.
As part of the report, the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy reinforced Cambridge’s reputation as an important hub for the life science sector in the UK. The value of the city was recognized several times by Sir John as an integral part of the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ cluster in the south-east of England. Cambridge’s connection with many notable scientific innovations, including spin-outs from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and several other noteworthy companies from across the sector, were highlighted to illustrate how the city is a centre of excellence for research and technological innovation in the life sciences.
Good news for the region came in December 2017 when the government began implementing the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy by unveiling a new Sector Deal. Bringing together ministers, universities, charities and more than 25 businesses, this package pledged substantial investment for the UK’s life science sector.
We were excited to see the Sector Deal promote Cambridge as an attractive location for life science investment, in line with BioStrata’s own positive experience of the city. It encouraged companies to cluster around locations where there are already academic centres of excellence, and even included the Cambridge Biomedical Campus as a prime example. Cambridge was also featured when the Sector Deal discussed the promise of a new genomics industry in UK: work by AstraZeneca, Cambridge Epigenetix and Congenica (with Genomics England) was highlighted, alongside only one other firm not based in the city or the surrounding area.
So, with all this new investment, what will the impact be on the city?
The Sector Deal tackled infrastructure issues that are key for life science businesses in Cambridge: housing and transport. It included a package of five nationwide initiatives to create prosperous communities.
Three of these involve Cambridge, including: a £5million commitment to develop proposals for Cambridge South station; investment in housing across the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor; and construction of the expressway between Cambridge and Oxford.
Clear communication of Westminster’s plans for the life science sector opens up further opportunities for growth, as it gives officials and business leaders greater certainty and confidence in what comes next (and how they should adjust accordingly). Nationally, we saw the CBI Business Optimism index in the UK jump to 13 in the first quarter of 2018 from -11 in the previous three-month period. In Cambridge, we’ve seen greater confidence reflected in positive discussions around life science businesses contributing to local schemes such as the CAM Metro plans.
The Sector Deal promised that further initiatives would be announced by the government in 2018. So how else will Cambridge benefit?
Early in 2018, an extra £3.2million of funding was awarded to Cambridge to support building and trialling six 10-15-seater self-driving shuttles to the south of the city. This extra transport link could prove valuable for life science organisations around the Cambridge Biomedical Campus site.
More recently, Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, announced that he would give the go-ahead to at least two new towns along the expressway route between Cambridge and Oxford, with the option for him to push for up to three more.
In a nutshell, Cambridge has benefited from the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and its early implementation – and it looks likely to continue to fare well once further investment is announced in the future.