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Sep 1, 2008 (Vol. 28, No. 15)

Makeover Mandated for U.K. Life Science Sector

Guidelines to Help the Industry Win Over Partners, Investors, and Public Opinion

  • Experts at the government-backed body UK Trade and Investment (UKTI; www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk) believe that the U.K. biotech industry’s recent battering by high-profile financial press pundits not only temporarily dented its pride but also gave a very one-sided view of the true international potential of the country’s life science sector.

    On paper the U.K. looks impressive. Not only is it second to the U.S. in terms of biotech industry size but it leads Europe with its pharmaceutical exports.

    UKTI figures suggest that the U.K. accounts for some 40% of biotechnology products in the pipeline by European public companies. Also, 45% of new biotechnology drugs in Phase III trials in Europe are from the country.

    R&D investment in the U.K. crossed £3.30 billion, or about $6.41 billion, in 2005. Revenues from biotech companies and related service providers are in the region of £2.50 billion, or roughly $4.85 billion.

    “Despite the U.K.’s world-beating position in the global marketplace, we cannot be complacent,” admits Harriet Fear, leader for the life sciences sector team at UKTI. “We are not the only country to understand the huge value and importance of life sciences. In an increasingly competitive world, the U.K. must work even harder and smarter to market itself effectively and showcase its enormous potential. This lies at the heart of the strategy that business and government are working on in partnership.”

    To this end, the UKTI was charged by the government with marketing the U.K.’s life sciences internationally. After some 18 months of consultation, primarily with the industry itself but also with government bodies such as the U.K.’s Department of Health and Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), the UK Life Science Marketing Strategy was drafted earlier this year.

  • Marketing Strategy

    “It’s about developing a cohesive strategy that really targets the industry’s needs in terms of winning partners, investment, and customers,” Fear explains. The strategy is an ever-evolving work, steered by industry-led boards in collaboration with industry bodies including the ABPI (Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries) as well as the BIA (BioIndustry Association) and with the input of dedicated, industry-led workstreams.

    Specifically, the recently established workstreams aim to optimize how U.K. academia and industry sells itself internationally, in terms of comprehensive and consistent messaging (i.e., letting the world know what the U.K. has to offer), financing (using marketing to increase the amount of international VC funding in the U.K.), and also how best to communicate with potential partners and investors in key countries, identified as the U.S., China, India, and Japan.

    “The U.K. has, perhaps, been rather slow in publicizing its strengths,” Fear points out. “To this end, UKTI has been instrumental in establishing the first U.K. industrial biotech partnering meetings and setting up national biotech entrepreneurial awards. We also work with the biotech industry associations to help set up national and regional initiatives that attract international interest and potential business.”

  • Unified Voice

    “The U.K. life science sector needs to be able to speak with one voice, wherever it goes, and present a united front,” Fear stresses. “However, the manner in which key information is communicated will need to be tailored to individual countries. The U.S. industry and financial sectors may already be well-informed about the U.K.’s life science industries, but in China or India, for example, U.K. companies may need to introduce themselves in a completely different way.

    “Also, who delivers that message will depend on the country,” Fear continues. “In the U.S., for example, potential partners may be more inclined to listen to a business or entrepreneurial voice. In China or Japan, a U.K. governmental voice may hold more sway.

    “This information will be available through the development of a comprehensive tool kit encompassing relevant messages, case-studies, industry data guides to countries, and customer analyses. The tool kit will allow any U.K. life science company, from the largest pharma to the smallest biotech, to access and take the most relevant messages with them in terms of U.K. innovation, support industry, tax incentives, and academic background.”

    The board also aims to carry out a series of high-impact events, ranging from major international roadshows to one-on-one meetings with high-level board members or an ambassador from the U.K.

    UKTI and the Strategy Implementation Board hope that executing and further developing the U.K. life science market over the next five years will significantly boost the country’s standing within the international arena, increase inward investments, business, and collaborations, as well as make the U.K. industry a more cohesive force.

    The organization invites everyone in the life sciences industry, both in the U.K. and internationally, to get involved with the UK Life Science Marketing Strategy. More details are available at www.marketinglifescience.co.uk.


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