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Can Boris pull it off?

Recent headlines have called on City professionals to invest some of their own personal wealth into medical research and technology as part of a push to attract more angel investment into UK Life Sciences

Bankers, lawyers, and business executives are among those targeted by the campaign to match wealthy individuals with early-stage Biotech and Medical Technology companies in need of funding.

The scheme called ‘Angels in MedCity’, devised and delivered by London Business Angels, is co-funded by MedCity and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) within the framework of its Capital Accelerator Programme.

Earlier this year, Boris Johnson launched MedCity, a partnership between the Mayor of London and the capital’s three academic Health Science centers: Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre, King’s Health Partners and UCL Partners.

According to HSJ, MedCity is set to bring together universities, businesses and scientists from London, Oxford, and Cambridge to promote the so-called “Golden Triangle” to investors. The scheme is modelled on London’s Tech City which has helped draw in technology companies, namely Google, to the capital while nurturing a booming start-up scene. London and the Southeast appear to have all the ingredients for success, not in the least its community of more than 150 Nobel Prize-winning scientists associated with their universities.

However it is yet to be recognized as one of the Bioscience clusters, like Boston and San Francisco, respectively world number one and two. Lower down the list there is little agreement about the ranking of Bioscience clusters elsewhere.

Could the UK as a whole be considered a cluster, as the BioIndustry Association (BIA) maintains? Or should it be the ‘golden triangle’ of London, Oxford and Cambridge? Or finally just London? How should the universities, Bioscience start-ups and large drug companies be measured against each other?

Whatever your thoughts, the ‘golden triangle’ makes a good case as Europe’s strongest – and forth worldwide – Bioscience cluster. Critics have raised concerns over too much expertise and investment being concentrated in the Southeast, potentially undermining other regions’ efforts to attract high-value science jobs. For instance, AstraZeneca, the UK Pharmaceuticals group, is in the process of moving thousands of jobs from Alderley Park in Cheshire to a new research and development centre in Cambridge.

However, London Mayor said: “It is an absolute delusion to think you can benefit other parts of the UK by starving London and the Southeast of investment”. Mr Johnson highlighted the growing technology clusters in Manchester and Birmingham as proof of Tech City’s successful spill over to other UK cities.

He also predicted that MedCity would have a similar benefit. According to Eliot Forster, chairman of MedCity, as well as having a notoriously strong science base, the Southeast offers Life Sciences companies an ideal place to conduct medical trials because of the genetic diversity of London’s multimillion population. “Every kind of human genome is represented here,” he is quoted saying in Financial Times. “We can be a laboratory for the world.”

Could this boom in Biotech activity around Cambridge, Oxford and London set a new trend amid critics’ warning of a possible entrenchment of regional economic divisions? I am curious to hear your thoughts.

Norma Warwick-Smith, Senior Consultant of Life Sciences at Interim Partners.


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