Few countries have as much discovery firepower as the UK, and we're not just talking about the prestigious crowd of scientists that inhabit Cambridge and Oxford. University College London, Manchester University and others have all contributed cutting-edge research on antibodies, small molecules and much, much more. But their bright ideas have been seeded in a parched investment environment.
By the early part of this year, the UK's bioentrepreneurial class was putting the country's biotech industry on a virtual death watch. And the government responded to the dire pronouncements with a commitment to provide £150 million pounds to back technology-based businesses, with the life sciences designated as a prime field for investment. The leaders of the UK Innovation Investment Fund expect private venture groups to jump in, leveraging the public seed capital into a billion pound operation over the next 10 years.
Lawmakers in the UK have inspired the envy of a number of other countries in Europe with an R&D tax credit made available to biotech companies. But the country isn't content with its already formidable research capacity. Four British hospitals and University College London have forged a £2 billion partnership that will create what's being billed as the largest biomedical research group in Europe. And the British government has been encouraging other centers to join forces into new, high-powered discovery centers. These research centers will likely be fertile ground for a new generation of biotech start-ups.
For all the hype about government actions, it's important to note that the UK is still providing only a fraction of the kind of financial support some of the most active states are offering in the U.S. Government efforts in the UK are designed to encourage private groups to stay in the game. It remains to be seen if that kind of support--especially when shared with a broad swathe of tech companies--can revive a suffering industry as large as the UK's.