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UK life sciences clusters key to delivering the Industrial Strategy

A new Academy report, produced jointly with the Wellcome Trust, provides a summary of the main findings of a FORUM workshop on ‘Geographical clusters’ held at Newcastle University on 1 February 2017.

The workshop brought together leaders from across the UK life sciences clusters and other key stakeholders to explore the challenges currently faced by clusters in the UK environment and ways forward, in the context of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy. This report builds on a highly successful FORUM meeting held in 2015 that took a first look at the way clusters could work together more effectively. 

The UK life sciences clusters link up the diverse components of the research ecosystem including businesses, universities and hospitals, to create regions of excellence in research, and translation and delivery of innovation. These clusters will play a key role in delivering the UK Life Sciences Industrial Strategy. 

The overarching message from the meeting was the need for greater connectivity and collaboration within and between the UK’s life sciences clusters to build a compelling UK offering founded on their individual strengths. Participants also emphasised the need for:

  • Long-term funding and strategies for clusters to allow them to fully embed within their regions and support the growth of small businesses.
  • Balancing of regional agendas with driving collaboration and national strategies.
  • Increased diversity of funding opportunities across the UK.
  • Access to talent including entrepreneurial and business skills alongside scientific disciplines. 

Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, commented: 

“Recognising and maximising the value of life sciences clusters is a key step towards maintaining the UK as a global powerhouse of the life sciences. These hubs of research, development and innovation play an essential role in delivering the UK’s world-leading research and driving its translation into benefits for society. 

“The UK life sciences clusters will play a key role in the delivery of the upcoming Industrial Strategy. The Strategy, in turn, should support and grow UK clusters by creating an environment where they can thrive. This will involve ensuring access to  funding opportunities across the UK and to the necessary skills and talent needed by each cluster. Long-term strategy and vision will also be key for clusters to fully take advantage of their environment, with sustainable support for the growth of small businesses being an essential ingredient. 

“As Britain leaves the EU, it is particularly important to have a joined-up national clusters strategy to coordinate and build upon the diverse strengths across the UK. It will also be important for clusters to come together to show their combined strength and speak as a collective voice in the life sciences, in order to promote the UK as a global destination of choice for research and innovation. 

“It is fitting that the meeting was held at the Newcastle University – itself part of a key life sciences cluster – where high quality research institutes rub shoulders with hospitals, established companies and start-ups.” 

FORUM programme

The Academy of Medical Sciences’ FORUM was established in 2003 to catalyse connections across industry, academia and the NHS, and the regulatory, charity and wider healthcare sector. Since then, a range of FORUM activities and events have brought together researchers, research funders and research users from across academia, industry, government, and the charity, healthcare and regulatory sectors. Further information and details of future events can be found on the FORUM homepage.

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