UCB to spend £200M to create U.K. R&D hub

The Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, U.K. (Diliff/CC BY-SA 2.5)

UCB is set to spend up to £200 million ($255 million) to create a new R&D facility in the U.K. The British government unveiled UCB’s investment in its second life science sector deal, which disclosed total spending of £1.3 billion.

As in 2017, the U.K. government has begun December by sharing details of life science investments while trying to keep its Brexit plan moving forward. Last year, the deal failed to improve perceptions about the post-Brexit prospects of the U.K. as a location for life science investment. This time around, the deal was unveiled to an even more skeptical global industry.

The investments presented by the government are unlikely to dispel skepticism but, unlike last year, the government does have a significant, previously undisclosed initiative to reveal. UCB stepped up to give a boost to the beleaguered government.

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Having made the U.K. a key part of its R&D network following the 2004 acquisition of Celltech, UCB has affirmed its commitment to the country by outlining plans to spend £150 million to £200 million on a new R&D hub. The move to the facility will support 650 R&D jobs, around the same number as UCB currently employs across the U.K. and Ireland.

The government disclosed UCB’s plans in its second life science sector deal. Other parts of the deal feature commitments that are perhaps less significant, either due to their size or doubts about how meaningful an action they represent. 

Most of the £1.3 billion figure trumpeted by the government comes from UCB, which will invest £1 billion in U.K. R&D over the next five years. Given that figure includes the £200 million facility and UCB’s annual U.K. R&D budget was £142 million in 2012, it is questionable whether the £1 billion spending plan represents a step up in activity. 

Most of the remaining £300 million in investment disclosed by the government is accounted for by a number of relatively small initiatives involving GW Pharmaceuticals, Roche, Celgene and a few other companies.

Roche plans to invest a further £30 million in the U.K. by 2020, according to the deal. The investment plan includes 100 new jobs. Most of the money will go into a precision cancer research partnership involving Foundation Medicine and a hospital specialized in oncology. Another £22 million comes from a previously announced five-year collaboration between Celgene and Cancer Research UK.