PwC: Turbocharging life sciences for the Northern Powerhouse

The UK, and the North, has a long history of excellence in life sciences, with the development of IVF, MRI and the mass production of penicillin. But the UK is facing increasing competition from the US, Europe and Asia.

While the US has been growing their share of global R&D expenditure from 39% in 1990 to over 53% in 2013, the UK has remained relatively stagnant at about 10% and has closed a number of major R&D sites.

However, life sciences are rising up the Government’s agenda, as it addresses the UK’s ability to compete globally, in part, through the development of new biolclusters. One example, Alderley Park, is now home to over 80 innovative start-ups and Biotechs such as Molplex Pharmaceuticals and NeuDrive Limited.

This rejuvenation in the North of England demonstrates how the coming together of the right pieces of the puzzle is having a positive impact on UK life sciences.

Ned Wakeman, Director of BioHub at Alderley Park said: “We at BioHub are hugely excited by the progress to date in the Northern Life Sciences scene and the prospects for what lies ahead.

“Since launching 2 years ago, we now have 30 physical customers, 92 virtual customers, and 10 Corporate Partners in the Alderley Park BioHub, employing more than 450 staff.

“To support growing companies, the BioHub provides innovative entrepreneurial programmes, and has a world class mentor network, which includes global leaders from across disciplines at Astrazeneca, alongside successful serial entrepreneurs and VCs.

“We have attracted over £10m in funding, including the £5m Medicines Technology Catapult, £1.2m RGF6 funding, and £5m Alderley Park Ventures Fund.

“It is particularly exciting to see the vast commercial and scientific experience in the region, together with the unique capabilities within of Alderley Park supporting the creation and growth of companies delivering cutting edge science and discoveries.”

PwC’s consulting practice has been playing a key role in this exciting and ever emerging space supporting organisations such as the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA), Liverpool Health Partners and Medcity, as well as LEPs, Academic Health Science Networks, such as North West Cost, and has provided advice to central government.

By bringing together the ingredients that already exist, we have helped organisations define their roles for success and coordinated efforts across stakeholders to deliver on the opportunities for the UK.

Across our six offices in the north, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Hull, Leeds and Newcastle, we have a range of experts, some who have worked for pharmaceutical companies as well as graduates from globally recognised degree programmes.

Additionally, there is support from world class academic institutions which are proactively seeking collaboration with each other as well as industrial partners.

This position is truly game changing as the combined experience and expertise of the northern universities, linked to the commercial acumen of industrial sponsors, has the potential to bridge the gap that the UK has long suffered; the gap between research & development excellence and the commercialisation of innovation and discoveries on UK soil.

PwC has first-hand experience working with NHSA, an entity looking to harness the talent in the North and foster growth of new life science ventures and bring new innovative companies to the region. The NHSA has been created to drive the life and health sciences agenda for the North.

Following the launch of the NHSA in 2013, a PwC team worked with its CEO, Dr Hakim Yadi, to bring together the top research intensive universities of the North (the N8) along with the research intensive NHS Trusts and AHSNs to develop a shared vision for a combined and collaborative Northern offer.

Following this, PwC further supported the NHSA to secure funding through development and challenge of their business case for Health North. The NHSA was successful in securing £20m of this funding and has already had a tremendous impact on Health and Life Sciences ecosystem in the North through the Health North initiative. Overall, research funding in the North is now the third largest in the UK; thanks in part to the efforts of the NHSA.

Dr Hakim Yadi, CEO of the NHSA said: “The PwC team brought a depth of industry knowledge alongside an acute understanding of the wider UK & Global Life Sciences landscape to work with our leading clinicians and academics to develop a coherent Life Sciences strategy.

“Additionally, the approach taken by the PwC team helped bring all the stakeholders along the journey so that we were set up to begin executing on the strategy straight away.”

Though the ingredients are there and success is being enjoyed, the UK remains a complex and often bureaucratic environment to work in. Some approaches have been developed to cut through the red tape, for example, Birmingham’s Trial Acceleration Programme (TAP) has been driving efficiency and innovation through networked trial programmes. But these are often isolated events and not easily replicated by others.

Our view is that a whole system approach is required to maximise the potential of UK life sciences – linking the regulators, the payers, the innovators, the NHS and even the patient together to achieve common goals of improving outcomes for patients whilst generating wealth for our economy.

Karen Finlayson, PwC partner, who leads our Health sector practice across the North, added: “This is truly an exciting time for the life sciences in the UK and we see the North as having a significant part to play, given the world class innovation and research capabilities in the region.

“Bringing clients together and helping them to navigate and solve complex issues is what PwC do best. We will continue to work with the key stakeholders within the local health economy to bring our insights and expertise to help realise the full potential of life sciences in the UK.”