North East England is one of the UK’s hot spots for Health and Life Sciences. Everything needed to support life sciences activities can be found within our region – from initial research, product development and testing to clinical trials and production facilities.
Earlier this year the North East LEP released Health, Life Sciences and Medicines Manufacturing Strategy which identifies opportunities in a number of specific areas including the development of advanced therapies and drug delivery systems, growth of the pharmaceutical manufacturing supply chain, diagnostics development and scale-up, and an evolving ecosystem of innovation centres that supports businesses to start, grow and scale in the North East. This strategy is part of the North East LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan, which is the roadmap for creating 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.
In this Q&A, Michelle Duggan, Inward Investment Manager at Invest North East England talks about the Government’s ambition to transform the UK into a life sciences superpower, and the region’s plans to double the size of its health and life sciences sector by 2030
Inward investment has an important role to play in the delivery of the North East LEP’s Health, Life Sciences and Medicines Manufacturing Strategy. What are some of the sector’s key strengths that will encourage more businesses to expand or relocate in North East England?
The publication of the Health, Life Sciences and Medicines Manufacturing Strategy by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership earlier this year really reinforces why the sector is going to be a key driver for growth in the North East economy moving forward.
It has been further bolstered by the announcement by Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock that government will invest £37m in life sciences to make the UK the best place in the world for life science businesses to invest and locate their operations.
North East England has a strongly integrated eco-system, allowing the sector to work across R&D, the healthcare system, public health and the private sector. We also have major manufacturing capabilities in pharmaceuticals, expertise in diagnostics and med-tech and an effective support services and value chain that will help drive that future growth.
There is a strong scientific and research base in the region’s healthcare system and universities. North East England’s universities have a strong track record of translating academic research and ideas into healthcare solutions and commercialising products and services. And that makes our healthcare system highly innovative. We also have very strong capabilities in clinical trials, which was demonstrated in the region’s superb response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Underpinning all of that is the North East’s great data and analytic capability, which is driven by strong, collaborative leadership from industry, the public sector, as well as the healthcare sector itself. When this is coupled with our destination strengths, we have a very compelling offer for businesses.
North East England’s universities offer a high density of STEM-based subjects and the growth in health and life sciences sector will generate even more opportunities for gradates to access really interesting jobs and pursue their careers in the region. Companies can also tap into that expertise and talent through industrial placements and knowledge transfer partnerships
The cost competitiveness of North East England is another really important factor too. With lower property and salary costs compared with other areas of the country, companies have recognised they can still access world-class talent and skills without paying a premium for it.
And of course there’s the unrivalled quality of life on offer in the North East as well. With coast and countryside on the doorstep, as well as thriving music, arts and culture, and food and drink scenes in our city centres, there’s a huge amount on offer for employees, and that’s an important factor when businesses are choosing a destination to invest or locate in.
Where are the key markets and what are some of the future opportunities within Health and Life Science that will help grow the sector in the North East England?
Globally, the health and life sciences sector is worth $1.25tn and the UK is already well integrated into that global market – we’re ranked third behind the US and China. Because of that, we’re well positioned to access some of those global opportunities.
In the North East, the health and life sciences sector has set ambitious targets to double the number of jobs and businesses in the industry by 2030. Some of that will happen through indigenous growth and university spin outs, but in order to reach those targets we really need to focus on accessing direct investment opportunities from foreign markets.
We already have a strong track record of achieving this in North East England. The region attracted 4.2% of all the life sciences projects into the UK from foreign direct investment between 2013 and 2017. We want the North East to become one of the top life science investment locations in the UK.
To help us achieve this we have access to international markets through the Department for International Trade (DIT) and we work with colleagues in key territories. India and the US are the hot spots for North East England and we plan to focus on utilising these links to help us grow pharma manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, and diagnostics.
Why is biopharma a key growth area for North East England?
Bio-pharmaceuticals is a specific area of medicine manufacturing that combines biotechnology using both biological and synthetic material to produce medicines and treatments. We already have a really significant cluster of global pharmaceutical businesses operating in the North East. Collectively they generate £750m for the regional economy and employ around 4,000 people. The wider supply chain and ancillary services support around 18,000 jobs in North East England.
Last month, I attended BioNow’s annual Biopharma Manufacturing Conference and the overriding message was that collaboration leads to success, and this is at the core of how the health and life sciences sector operates in North East England.
What’s important about this area is that it sits within the wider footprint of advanced manufacturing, which is another sector of strategic importance identified in the North East LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan.
They way in which companies working across the advanced manufacturing sector are innovating – be it through 5G, data analytics, immersive technology etc – many of those skills are transferable across industries, which creates opportunities for the health and life sciences sector.
Within pharmaceutical supply and technology manufacturing the region is already home to some significant global players, including GlaxoSmithKline, MSD, and Fujifilm, who created one of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Med-tech companies that are developing clinical diagnostics and medical devices are another growth area for us. The recent announcement of early stage funding for an Early Diagnostics Centre could lead to a further £210m investment in this cluster and create 300 additional jobs in an additional asset to our existing world-class facilities, so we are well positioned to grow existing businesses and attract more to the region.
I am looking forward to be chairing a panel session at next month’s Bio-Focus event on investment and the ecosystem to highlight ways in which inward investment, coupled with indigenous growth, can strengthen the cluster, with key speakers who illustrate why the North East is a great place to locate and grow bioscience business and unlock further growth.
Healthy Ageing has joined immersive technology, plant-based products, and heat networks as a High Potential Opportunity area for North East England. How will the region’s expertise in healthy ageing help attract more potential investors to the region?
We are known internationally for our expertise in healthy ageing, and because of this we’re able to access more global markets by working with colleagues in DIT via its network of international trade advisors. This has put a spotlight on the North East’s assets and the High Potential opportunity (HPO) provides a framework by which companies can spot opportunities and invest and locate here.
Some of those major assets include the UK National Innovation Centre for Ageing at Newcastle Helix, which delivers ageing intelligence for businesses exploring the independent ageing market. There’s a unique opportunity for businesses to commercialise products in the North East, and particularly products that support independence and help address some of the challenges of the global aging demographic.
We’re aiming to focus on some key themes: healthy and happy independence and enabling tech. In terms of helping people lead healthy lives, companies are really interested in creating products that use data and support self and remote management. There are real opportunities for us as we have expertise in the region businesses can tap into, but we can also create a city of longevity by ensuring products that are developed here help people locally.
Businesses are utilising many of the technologies that already exist here so investors can secure commercial advantage by accessing our world-class facilities. We also offer a range of land spaces, including high quality collaborative spaces such as the Catalyst on Newcastle Helix – a £50m facility that focuses on innovation, data, and analytics.
Newcastle University is leading the Campus for Ageing and Vitality, which is a nationally and internationally recognised centre for healthy ageing. It also houses the NIHR Biomedical Research Building, which focuses on the conversion of lab-based research in ageing and long-term conditions to bring about practical and meaningful benefits. It’s about taking that clinical and research expertise and translating it much more rapidly into commercial and social solutions.
To find out more about locating your business in North East England or more about our life science sector, visit our website https://investnortheastengland.co.uk/sectors/life-sciences/