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Lord Sainsbury of Turville

London Bioscience Innovation Centre Opening

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

Royal Vetinary College, London


Wednesday, May 01, 2002


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I was very pleased to accept the invitation from Professor Colin Howard to officially open London Bioscience Innovation Centre today as I have been following its progress with great interest.

I have been very interested in its progress for two reasons:

    one, because it is a project of vision and entrepreneurship and I admire and congratulate the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and Professor Colin Howard, in particular, on their achievement. The Royal Veterinary College had the foresight to recognise that they could turn a redundant building into bioincubator and then had the drive to turn that idea into the successful reality we see today, and I was, therefore, very pleased last year to present Colin Howard with the London Biotechnology Network's first London Entrepreneur of the Year award. It was richly deserved.

    and secondly, because ever since I lead the DTI's Cluster Study in 1999 I have had a particular interest in London as a biotechnology cluster. The Study recognised that London had the potential to be a world class cluster, but very little seemed to be happening and it appeared that the potential was being held back by a lack of space. Particularly the specialised incubator space that start-up biotech businesses need. The Royal Veterinary College with the London Bioscience Innovation Centre were the first to address this problem, and have been trail blazers.

London Bioscience Innovation Centre is London's first significant purpose built facility for bioscience companies and I am pleased to say that there are now several projects in the pipeline which will add to the supply of specialised laboratory and support facilities that new biotech companies need.

The recently published and up-dated report by the London Biotechnology Network emphasises the strengths that London has as a biotechnology cluster. There is an enormous amount of bioscience research in London centred around its world class university colleges, its medical schools and research organisations. Spending on biotechnology related research in London is estimated to be 300 million per annum – larger than any other region in the UK.

The report in particular indicates that there is a very healthy growth of biotechnology companies in London – many of them university spin outs. There are currently about 70 biotechnology businesses in London which represents a growth of nearly 40% over the last two years.

The example of London Bioscience Innovation Centre is helping to catalyse these developments. But another crucial factor has been the work of the London Development Agency (LDA). I congratulate them on their vision for biotech in London and the support they are providing. The LDA have provided significant funding for LBIC.

Another organisation is London First's London Biotechnology Network whose main aims are to provide a networking support for the biotech sector and also to help develop the premises that small and growing biotechnology companies need in London. They have done a tremendous job on making people aware of what is going on in London and bringing biotechnology companies together to exchange ideas. London Biotechnology Network has also provided the very essential facilitation that is needed to get the various projects that will provide the future space for biotech companies underway. Both through their successful networking activities but also their work on identifying suitable sites and then helping to get them developed.

The work by organisations that know London and have the required focus - such as the London Development Agency and London Biotechnology Network – will always be crucial to the development of London as a biotechnology cluster. However I think that Government has an important part to play and I am very pleased that the DTI has been able to help with work of the London Biotechnology Network.

The Government has a vital role to play in creating the environment in which biotechnology companies can grow here in London and in other regions across the UK.

In particular it has a responsibility to ensure that public sector bioscience R&D in the UK, which is the prime source of future new products, maintains its world class position. This is why the Government has made significant real increases in the Science Budget over the past few years. The 1998 Comprehensive Spending Review increased the science budget by 15% over three years – the largest increase in any area of public spending in the Review. And in July last year the Government continued its programme of investment. The 2000 Spending Review added 725 million to the Science Budget over 3 years including 250 million specifically to boost research in genomics, e-science and basic technology that will shape life in the 21st Century. To give you a scale of what funding, from 2001 to 2004, the Science Budget will increase by 7% per year in real terms.

Government also has an important role to facilitate the transfer of public sector R&D in the commercial exploitation. It does this in several ways. Through programme LINK programmes such as the 15 million LINK Applied Genomics programme, which encourages industry/academic collaboration. And through the SMART scheme which provides support directly to small companies to develop innovative new products and services. We have also encouraged knowledge transfer from universities to industry by introducing schemes such as University Challenge (which provides seed corn funding to universities), Science Enterprise Centres (which provide entrepreneurial skills to undergraduates in science and engineering), and the 140 million Higher Education Innovation Fund (which provides funding to universities to encourage them to do knowledge transfer).

Support for the establishment of bioincubators and in particular the mentoring services that biotech companies need to get started and grow is an important part of the Government's new 25 million Harnessing Genomics programme.

I am delighted that all these initiatives are now producing results. The recent Higher Education Institute Business Interaction survey showed that last year there were 199 spin-off companies from universities, compared to an average of 70 each year for the previous 5 years. There has also been a sharp increase in the number of patents filed, up 22% between 1998/99 and 1999/2000, and the proportion of research income funded by companies in the UK is also up and is now at a higher level than even the USA.

It is also encouraging that we are now getting more than our fair share of fast growth high tech businesses in the UK. Recently, Deloitte and Touche published a survey of the 500 fastest growing European ones - 150 are in the UK, compared with 51 in Germany, 97 in France and 43 in Ireland.

I would like to finish by once again congratulating Professor Colin Howard on his very successful achievement of setting up London Bioscience Innovation Centre and also his colleagues and partners, such as the Bank of Scotland who have made it a reality. I wish them all great success in the future phases of London Bioscience Innovation Centre and as I said at the start of my presentation I will be taking a very close interest in its progress.

I therefore have great pleasure in declaring the London Bioscience Innovation Centre officially open.


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