Promoting Life Sciences For Physical And Economic Health

Increasing investment in innovation and unleashing the power of NHS data can boost the sector and the broader economy

Life sciences lab scene

We gathered a group of senior leaders on Oct. 4, 2023, to discuss ways to promote the continued development of Life Sciences in the United Kingdom. Our speakers – Sir Jon Symonds, chair of GSK and co-author of the government’s Life Sciences Vision paper, and Lord Jitesh Gadhia – shared insights from their considerable experience, and explained how fostering innovation and growth in the sector can bring jobs, wider economic prosperity, and improved public health. Here are a few of our takeaways:

  • Developing Life Sciences in the UK is an economic opportunity. At 75, the NHS faces massive challenges – soaring costs, an aging population, and worsening treatment outcomes. Traditionally seen as a cost centre, government and the healthcare industry now see the connection between economic growth and a healthy and productive workforce.  The issue is especially pronounced in the UK, where our job vacancy rate is high (around 1 million jobs) and our long-term sickness rates underperform our peers.
  • It’s not just about ‘more money.’ The focus of healthcare spending must shift if we want better outcomes. The country currently spends about 12% of GDP on health, which compares well to other nations, but UK outcomes are subpar. Channeling more resources to prevention and early diagnosis, investing more in life sciences such as technological interventions, and improving the transition from basic science into clinical trials, which undergo NHS regulatory approval and pricing, will help correct this imbalance.
  • The UK has an opportunity to lead on healthcare.  The NHS is the largest single-payer system in the world, putting it in a unique position to use organised and accessible data to reinvent healthcare. An important part of this is the launch of Our Future Health. About 800,000 people already have volunteered for the effort, which aims to enroll 5 million people. The goal is to use data and other medical results from those individuals to create a health map of the UK that identifies where resources need to be spent to improve prevention and early diagnosis. (You can get more information and sign up at
  • But we can’t be complacent. While the UK has a huge number of assets – including two outstanding global pharma companies, a huge number of life sciences start-ups, impressive academic institutions, world leading genomics, and an agile regulator – there is no room for complacency. Our healthcare system, which long ranked as one of the top globally, has fallen to 29, according to the IMD rankings, while others like Singapore, Denmark, and Ireland have leapfrogged to the top. The UK is not short on innovation, but it needs better access to finance and a more agile regulatory process that facilitates the development of new medicines. The government is acting to address these issues, with the Chancellor in November announcing pension reforms designed to free up substantial capital for investment and bring about a less risk-averse investment attitude. More insights on this can be found in our paper in collaboration with the City of London Corporation on the Vision for Economic Growth which sets out a growth plan to help the UK’s financial and professional services firms continue to drive jobs and prosperity.