Long-term growth for Life Sciences sector in the South West

September 23, 2019
Richard Seabrook

For the first time Life Sciences has been properly recognised locally as an enabler of growth. This could mean more opportunities for employment for locals, apprentices and university students plus increased potential for research collaborations with partners benefitting from the close proximity to local universities. Richard Seabrook, Elizabeth Blackwell Institute’s Advisor for Business Development at the University of Bristol explains what’s next for the strategy to deliver long-term growth for the Life Sciences sector in the South West.

A recent successful collaboration with GW4 achieved recognition for life and health sciences innovation in Bristol and the South West of England for the re launched UK Industrial Strategy Life Science Sector Deal. The University of Bristol have been working alongside partners such as Invest Bristol and Bath, Bristol Health Partners, University of Bath and UWE, on the West of England Combined Authority local Industrial Strategy (WECA), which was launched this July.

WECA’s first ever Local Industrial Strategy sets out how the area will contribute towards delivering the national Industrial Strategy’s aim to raise productivity levels and create high-quality, well paid jobs across the country. The strategy mentions Life Sciences as a sector growing at pace and draws on the unique strengths of the region, underlining their ambition to be a driving force for clean and inclusive growth. It focuses on four key priorities: cross-sectoral innovation; inclusive growth; the productivity challenge; innovation in infrastructure.

Evidence to show an emerging Life Sciences sector in the West of England:

  • 1,288 jobs were advertised in the Life Sciences sector in the West of England between January 2018 and December 2018
  • The demand for Life Sciences jobs in Bristol was the same as the UK average for Life Sciences jobs
  • 2,700 employees across the Life Sciences sector in the region
  • Academic research base employs 1,560 people in Life Sciences:
  • 900 people at the University of Bristol
  • 540 people at the University of Bath
  • 120 people at the University of the West of England

The Strategy states: ‘The number of health and life science businesses has increased by 25 per cent in the last three years, in line with the national average. This growth has built on the strengths of university research and the opportunities offered by the application of digital tech. Co-location with the region’s strong sectors is accelerating research, development and commercialisation within the life sciences sector, especially health tech robotics, and has the potential to set the region apart. The region is also home to world leading companies developing the underpinning digital technologies such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, high performance.’

Examples from the University of Bristol include two spin out companies. The first is KWS BioTest Ltd, a leading contract research organisation specialising in immunology oncology discovery testing services. The second is Ziylo Ltd, a specialist chemistry company which could transform the treatment of diabetes improving the lives of millions of people around the world. Novo Nordisk acquired Ziylo Ltd in staged acquisition with a potential deal value that could exceed £640M, one of the largest in the sector during the period since the Life Science Strategy was launched. BriSynBio, a BBSRC/EPSRC funded Synthetic Biology Research Centre at the University of Bristol, is also especially noted as an engine of growth having nurtured the translation of research into four companies (Zentraxa, Cytoseek, Imophoron, and Alpha Nanopore) with a further two in the pipeline. According to the UK Synthetic Biology Startup Survey 2019 recent start-up activity in Bristol has driven the share of synthetic biology companies in the South West to 6%, the highest level in England outside the Golden Triangle.

In addition to this, Bristol, Cardiff and Newport recently commissioned Metro Dynamics to write a report, making the case for a Powerhouse for the West. The report explains that a Great Western Powerhouse could achieve its potential by working together on Industrial Strategy, infrastructure, internationalisation, innovation and inclusive growth. Find out more:: A Powerhouse for the West: Britain’s missing powerhouse.

Life and Health Sciences can make an exciting and meaningful contribution to the objectives of inclusive and clean economic growth. Pioneering collaborations and partnerships for the convergence of innovation in data, digital, quantum and computing technologies with Life Sciences are fast developing that will benefit our health, environment and economy, locally, nationally and internationally.

Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research is busy building links between our research community at the University of Bristol and partners in the business sector. We provide support to establish and sustain strategic partnerships with business to both advance science and deliver benefits to society.

Find out how you could collaborate – contact Richard Seabrook: richard.seabrook@bristol.ac.uk or visit: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/blackwell/partnering/industry/