MedCity's Executive Chair Dr Eliot Forster responds to the Spending Review and Autumn Statement

The UK Government’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement sets out funding priorities for the rest of this parliament, with key headlines including:

  • Increased funding for the Catapult network
  • Protection of the science budget in real terms
  • Protection of the Innovate UK budget, with some grants to be replaced with loans; the worth of loans will reach £165m per year by 2019-20
  • A new body Research UK will be launched to work across the seven research councils
  • Innovate UK will integrate with Research UK, retaining its business focus and separate funding stream

See the full document here.

In response to the announcement, Dr Eliot Forster said:

“It’s absolutely critical that the UK does not lose its ability to innovate. Despite spending less on research and development as a percentage of GDP than many of our competitors, as a nation we continue to punch well above our weight on the global stage. It’s great that the Chancellor has signalled a real terms protection of the science budget and additional funding for the Catapult programme.

“The life sciences sector in particular is one of the great engines driving the health and wealth agenda. Government investment and support play a fundamental role in the health of the whole pipeline, and at a time when the NHS is facing significant challenges we also know that the pursuit and adoption of innovation is absolutely critical to improving patient care and bending the cost curve in the NHS.

“Innovate UK has proved to be a successful mechanism for turning innovation into products, and seeding and moving forward young companies, and I’m pleased that its funding is safe. However the transformation of at least some R&D grants into loans is potentially concerning, since the timescales of drug discovery mean that early stage life sciences companies are a long way from return on investment. Alongside the rest of the sector, we will await further details keenly.”