Press release

Government gives boost to UK life sciences sector

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

UKCMRI will be one of the most significant developments in UK biomedical science for a generation.

placeholder

The institute will foster collaboration with other centres of excellence and bring this country’s best physical, biomedical and clinical scientists together. This will help ensure that advances in biomedical sciences are translated swiftly and effectively into benefits for patients and the economy.

The government has also ‘earmarked’ funding to improve facilities for storing and accessing the rapidly increasing amount of bio-molecular research data that is expected to be used in the development of future treatments. By earmarking these funds, the government considers the project is ready to progress to detailed appraisal.

The European Life-Science Infrastructure for Biological Information (ELIXIR) project would significantly increase the quality and quantity of information readily available to researchers in genomics and systems biology and ensure it is catalogued and stored in a standardised format, building on the UK’s leading international standing. This is subject to approval of the business case and funding.

Today the Prime Minister is meeting the Council for Science and Technology (CST) at Downing Street. The CST is the UK Prime Minister’s top-level advisory body on science and technology policy issues.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

The UK’s science and research sector is world class and one that we can be very proud of.

A strong research base is absolutely crucial to help secure long term economic growth, helping to re-balance the economy and creating the jobs of the future, which is why despite some tough spending decisions we have protected its funding.

We have some of the best scientists, excellent facilities and cutting edge technology, and it is our determination that we do all that we can to ensure the UK remains one of the world leaders in this field for many years to come.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

The UK life sciences industry is an important growth sector, employing over 130,000 people and generating a turnover of over £30 billion last year.

We need to do everything we can to encourage both companies and researchers to come and work in the UK on a range of important projects aimed at improving our quality of life, which will in turn boost economic growth.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said:

Here in UK we have some of the world’s top biomedical scientists, but to make the most of this we need to ensure we have the very best facilities.

I am delighted that we are one step closer to the development of UKCMRI. This exciting new institute will bring the best scientific talent together to understand the biology underlying human health and find ways to prevent and treat the most significant diseases affecting people today.

Planning permission for UKCMRI was granted by the London Borough of Camden in December, and it has received approval from the Mayor of London. Construction of UKCMRI is expected to start in May once all processes associated with planning permission are completed.

Notes for editors

UKCMRI

Building on research excellence

UKCMRI will initially build on the complementary skills and research interests of 2 of the founders’ research institutes, the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) and the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute (LRI), together with UCL scientists focusing on physics, computing, engineering, imaging and chemistry.

Government funding

It was announced in the October 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review that £220 million of capital funding from the Department of Health had been allocated for UKCMRI, subject to approval of the Medical Research Council’s final business case. It is this approval which has now been granted.

Key facts:

  • 1,500 staff, including 1,250 scientists
  • annual budget of over £100m
  • initial investment of £600m
  • 3.6 acres of land
  • 79,000 square metres of building

Timeline:

  • December 2010 - planning permission granted by London Borough of Camden
  • May 2011 - Construction expected to start
  • 2015 - Construction ends
  • 2015 - Science begins

ELIXIR

ELIXIR is a pan-European initiative that aims to operate a sustainable infrastructure for biological information in Europe. The project is funded by the European Commission and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council leads the funding strategy. ELIXIR is one of the top priority projects which the Research Councils have recommended for funding under the Large Facilities Capital Fund (part of the BIS science and research funding). Ministers have accepted the recommendation and earmarked funding for ELIXIR. This is subject to ministerial approval of a full business case and to the availability of funding. The facility would be at the European Bioinformatics Institute at the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus in Hinxton, Cambridge. A team of highly-skilled staff would be responsible for cataloguing and filing the data and providing user support, and it is predicted that the project would create around 100 high tech jobs.

CST

The CST is the UK Prime Minister’s top-level advisory body on science and technology policy issues. The Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor Sir John Beddington who co-chairs the Council with Professor Dame Janet Finch, the Director of the Wellcome Trust Sir Mark Walport, Venture Capitalist Dr Hermann Hauser and the Presidents of the Royal Society (Sir Paul Nurse), the Academy of Medical Sciences (Sir John Bell) and the British Academy (Professor Sir Adam Roberts) are all part of the Council and will be present at the meeting. The theme will be science and research as drivers of economic growth and social benefit.

CST’s remit is to advise the Prime Minister on strategic issues that cut across the responsibilities of individual government departments. CST organises its work around 5 broad themes (research, science and society, education, science and government, and technology innovation) and takes a medium to long term approach.

The 9 independent (current) members are senior, highly respected people active in the worlds of academia and business and from charitable sponsors and professional bodies. They include:

  • Professor Dame Janet Finch CBE - Professor of Sociology Manchester University and ex-Vice-Chancellor of Keele University
  • Dr Hermann Hauser Hon CBE, FREng - Venture Capitalist and co-Founder of Amadeus Capital Partners
  • Professor Alan Hughes - Director of the Centre for Business Research at Cambridge University
  • Professor Michael Sterling FREng - Chairman of the Science and Technology Facilities Council and ex-Vice-Chancellor of Birmingham University
  • Sir Mark Walport FMedSci - Director of the Wellcome Trust
  • President of the Royal Society - Sir Paul Nurse
  • President of the Royal Academy of Engineering - Lord Browne
  • President of the Academy of Medical Sciences - Sir John Bell
  • President of the British Academy - Sir Adam Roberts

Further background on the Council and its work can be found at http://www.bis.gov.uk/cst.

Published 9 February 2011