14 February, 2018 - 00:11 By News Desk

Cambridge BioMedTech cluster in great shape but can become even stronger globally

The current dynamism, growth and continuing success of Life Sciences in the Cambridge and surrounding cluster cannot be denied and is, quite appropriately, celebrated and admired far and wide, writes One Nucleus CEO, Tony Jones.

A challenge that faces all successful clusters, of course, is how to enable existing businesses to scale while continuing to start new entities and attract inward investment.

There have been a number of exciting developments, and more in the pipeline, that will enable the region to succeed in the short and longer term. Capitalising on the opportunities along the M11 Corridor and out to East Anglia holds much potential.

It may be useful to consider the current state of play in order to fully appreciate what the future may hold. There are innumerable studies and reports available, but some key facts and figures* about the Greater Cambridge – London region’s activity in 2017 are:-

  • 247 biotechnology companies in the region (20 per cent of the UK total)
  • 107 primary R & D companies developing novel therapeutics or diagnostics (33 per cent of the UK total)
  • $503 million raised in the first 10 months of 2017 (43 per cent of the UK total)
  • 28 per cent of the businesses focus on therapeutics compared to 21 per cent across the UK and, reflecting the region’s strengths, nine per cent are focused in the genomic and protein fields.

The data suggest the region’s output reflects the current and emerging strengths compared to the UK landscape.

Looking ahead, the industry trends in fields such as data mining, Artificial Intelligence, microbiome, precision medicine, early diagnoses, robotics and more see major businesses, research groups and those investing in these fields significantly represented which bodes well for the innovation pipeline.

There are, of course, some important and pivotal developments in progress in the region. The relocation of AstraZeneca’s R & D and corporate headquarters to a consolidated location at the Cambridge BioMedical Campus becomes ever closer.

The growth and relocation of Abcam is another exciting large company move to the same location. Meanwhile, we have seen BioMed Realty and Babraham launch their collaboration to create over 100,000 square feet of R & D space as well as the campus having recently seen Abzena commence the lease on its new building.

Moreover, the creation of new commercial space at Cambridge Science Park, Chesterford Research Park and Harlow Science Park among others suggest there is a high degree of confidence for growth in the region.

Academia is not to be left behind, of course. LifeArc now firmly established at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, and the Government allocated further funding for expansion of the Cell and Gene Therapy Manufacturing Centre. Development of the Quadram Institute in Norwich exemplifies the future-proofing of the region into new fields such as the microbiome and anti-microbial resistance.

The 2017 Science & Innovation Audit for the East of England demonstrated the collective powerhouse of innovation excellence in Life Sciences, and indeed the other complementary sectors of ICT, Advanced Manufacturing and Agri-Tech.

The strengths include the region’s global brand and positioning and hence the ability to attract the world’s best talent to staff the growing academic, start-up and more established businesses to ensure success.

The depth and strength of the networks in the region is also a major asset. Some may feel there is a degree of duplication and over-complexity of the eco-system that can hinder navigation. On the contrary, perhaps the dynamic nature of multiple, complementary networks and connections is part of what makes the region a success since there are multiple routes in for high quality people, ideas and investors to converge.

A balance of this dynamic disorder with a well-coordinated collaborative approach across networks as we see locally appears to be a successful approach.

The above excellence and supportive environment for entrepreneurs and innovators affords the development and attraction of investment and industrial collaborations well suited to the modern era to enable economic return and growth.

Maintaining such a competitive edge through collaboration, locally and further afield, is not without its challenges. Obviously, the uncertainties surrounding Brexit stands out, given the impact this may have on recruiting talent, science funding and route to market for our companies products.

There is concern in some quarters also about the desire under the Industrial Strategy to focus public investment elsewhere. It is encouraging to see how the industry lobby groups are engaging and putting a strong case to Government on key issues and One Nucleus will be feeding into that process where appropriate.

I am a strong believer that quality sells, however, so by making the case to the European and indeed global talent pool that this is the best place in which to succeed and to Government that the benefits of investing in the region’s excellence benefit the whole of the UK, then the major strengths will be sustained and built upon.

In terms of One Nucleus, we are very proud to be based here and will be championing, connecting and supporting the region wherever possible. Our mission is to enable our members to be globally competitive.

Under new leadership since August 2017, we will continue our work with a focus on bringing great science and technology, talent and investment together and enabling our leaders to excel through three R’s: Revamping of our training offer to broaden access and content; Revitalising our UK and international collaborations for member benefit; and Refreshing our events and conference portfolio.

(* Provided by Venture Valuation, December 2017).

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