Louisa Desborough, director of Freshwater’s Healthcare division, looks at Boris Johnson’s recent announcement for a new life sciences programme in the South East.
Last week, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, outlined his plans for Britain to be at the forefront of the life sciences sector to rival the role that financial services currently play in the economy.
Johnson is looking to use the so called ‘golden triangle’ of hospitals and universities in London, Oxford and Cambridge to make a step-change in advancements in the fight against cancer, dementia and other major diseases.
Dubbed ‘MedCity’, London’s Mayor hopes to develop the pharmaceutical, bio-tech and med-tech industries to create a localised movement comparable to that of Silicon Valley and the technological industry. The region already has established sites such as the Science Park at Cambridge and leading London hospitals at Imperial University and University College Hospital. Johnson is looking to expand the life science sector, which employs more than 700,000 people and has seen employment figures rise 21% over the last 10 years.
In order to compete with US biotech hubs at Boston and San Francisco, as well as the emerging markets in countries such as Singapore, MedCity will be supported with £4million of funding.
Some critics have argued the move might undermine efforts outside of the South-East to attract investment and jobs. Others have also stated that branding the area under the MedCity moniker may have a detrimental effect by driving up costs. However, the announcement has largely been welcomed by Britain’s top scientists and life science companies.
Steve Bates, Chief Executive of the BioIndustry Association, said that “this initiative has the real potential to maximise the UK’s strengths as a world leader in bioscience and critically, to combine these with the benefits of being home to a major global financial centre.”
Similarly, politicians have also heralded the move, and George Freeman MP, who helped develop policies for the Government’s Life Science Strategy, explained that “by linking UCL, Imperial and Kings, and their associated NHS Research Hospitals, with Cambridge and Oxford, the MedCity cluster triangle becomes the number one life science cluster in the world.”
MedCity’s potential is vast. Although ancient academic rivalries may prove tricky to bury, the move will help diversify an economy that is argued to be over-reliant on the financial services sector. With the creation of thousands of jobs in such a cutting edge industry, MedCity can help put Britain firmly at the forefront of medical research and innovation.
Freshwater’s Healthcare team has worked with clients across the NHS and a wide range of companies offering health services and products since 1991 to manage change, deal with crises or promote awareness. Our services range from stakeholder communications to awareness-raising, behaviour change, crisis management, launches, events, research and training.