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AHSN welcomes proposals to build UK’s status as world leader in life sciences

The Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) has welcomed today’s announcement on proposals to help the UK’s life sciences sector become an international benchmark for success during an event at the Institute of Translational Medicine.

Attended by Business Secretary Greg Clark and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford and Chair of the Office for the Strategic Co-ordination of Health Research, outlined the industry’s vision for how government can work alongside the sector to boost businesses large and small across the £64 billion life sciences sector.

The industry-led Life Sciences Industrial Strategy follows Sir John’s comprehensive cross-sector review into the long-term future of the industry and brings together input and recommendations from a broad range of stakeholders, including global companies, healthcare groups, SMEs and charities. The report’s recommendations will be considered carefully by the government and used to work towards a sector deal between government and the global life sciences sector.

Sir John said: “The vision for the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy is an ambitious one and sets out proposals for how the UK can continue to capitalise on its strengths in the sector, both to encourage economic growth and to improve health outcomes for patients.

“We have created a strategy which capitalises on our strong science base to further build the industry into a globally-unique and internationally competitive life sciences ecosystem, supported by collaboration across industry, government, the NHS, academia, and research funders to deliver health and wealth.

“I look forward to working with government to consider the strategy’s recommendations, including those that can be taken forward as part of an ambitious sector deal.”

The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy is organised under five themes – science, growth, NHS, data and skills – with proposals to build on the UK’s strengths in each area. AHSNs are seen as a key component in the strategy, with the report discussing how they are key partners for NHS and academia in allowing the NHS to participate in cutting-edge clinical research.

AHSNs are also highlighted as vital regional partners, alongside local government, LEPs, universities and research institutes, NHS, local businesses and support organisations to grow clusters and build resilience by working in partnership to identify and coalesce the local vision for life sciences. The role of AHSNs in improving the uptake of innovative products by the NHS and helping SMEs engage with the healthcare market is also recognised, with specific reference made to the “promising early start being made by Academic Health Science Networks”.

Jeremy Hunt said: “I want patients to continue to be at the front of the queue for the best treatments available, whether that means early access to trials, giving staff brand new innovations and technology to work with, or being at the heart of research to share best practice quickly across the health and social care system. A strong and growing life sciences sector ensures this, particularly as we negotiate our exit from the EU.”

At the launch, Greg Clark reiterated government’s commitment to the sector, announcing the first phase of the government’s investment in life sciences through the Industrial Strategy, with £146 million for leading-edge healthcare, which is expected to leverage more than £250 million of private funding from industry.

For more on the launch of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, go to the government’s website

Welcoming today’s announcement on the future of life sciences in the UK, Vice Chair of the national AHSN Network, Professor Mike Hannay said:

“This is great news for patients, the NHS and our life sciences sector. The right agreement between the Government and the life sciences industry will help build the UK’s status as a world leader in this sector and England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks stand ready to continue to accelerate the spread and adoption of innovation to improve patient health and save money.

“I also welcome the government’s commitment to the vision of helping the sector become an international benchmark for success by today announcing £160 million of funding to support the sector including the NHS.

“Since 2013 the work of the AHSNs has benefited six million people and we have spread over 200 innovations across the health and care system. We identify local health challenges, work with industry partners and clinicians to identify solutions and then use our expertise to get those innovations into hospitals and other clinical settings as fast as possible.

“The new strategy highlights the role of AHSNs in pivotal areas. It recognises our links to universities which ensure innovations are properly evaluated and are evidence based; our role in regions to identify and coalesce the local vision for life sciences and the promising early start we have made helping SMEs overcome a difficult route to market.

“The AHSN Network is already poised to coordinate ‘Innovation Exchanges’ so that innovative new diagnostic tools, treatments and medical technologies reach patients faster. This was the first welcome step following the Accelerated Access Review to speed up patient access to new technologies.”