Press release

Industrial Strategy boost for UK medicines with £70 million of funding to help develop new treatments

Science Minister Sam Gyimah announces £70 million to create new manufacturing centres to help speed up the development of new medicines.

Industrial Strategy boost for UK medicines with £70 million of funding to help develop new treatments
  • funding through Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) will support projects including new manufacturing centres to speed up the production of medicine and new virtual reality projects to help patient recovery
  • landmark speech also confirms plans to map UK’s research infrastructure to ensure UK remains at the cutting edge

New Science Minister Sam Gyimah will announce £70 million of funding to create new manufacturing centres to help speed up the development of new medicines during a visit to Imperial College London today (Monday 22 January).

The money forms part of the government’s commitment to build a country fit for the future through a stronger economy and fairer society. It will create innovative new medical solutions, including using virtual reality to aid rehabilitation and investing in digital speech therapy solutions for stroke and brain injuries. The government’s investment in high tech medical research will in turn boost jobs, enhance the NHS and ensure better care for people when they are unwell.

During his visit to Imperial College London, the minister is expected to see how new, innovative technology is being developed to help patients.

He will be shown a cartoon-like robot which can improve learning and emotional understanding in children with autism. Because of their programming, robots are precise in displaying the same facial expressions and gestures in every interaction. Researchers believe this consistency may be the key to helping young children with autism to learn the different facial expressions and gestures people use to display their emotions.

The minister is also likely to see some AI facial-recognition research which could be used to help elderly people by detecting the onset of depression, or in security systems to recognise visitors to dementia sufferers’ homes as doctors, nurses or relatives.

As part of a day of Industrial Strategy activity, Sam Gyimah will also speak at the Royal Society where he will announce the start of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Research and Innovation Infrastructure Roadmap Programme, which will comprehensively map UK research and innovation infrastructure, showcasing our abilities whilst identifying any gaps in infrastructure that we can address to boost the sector.

The Infrastructure Roadmap will be the first major piece of work that UKRI will undertake, and is expected to be finished in 2019 and will feature:

  • large scientific facilities and major equipment
  • collections, archives and scientific data
  • e-infrastructures such as data and computing systems
  • communications networks

Universities and Science Minister Sam Gyimah said:

Through our ambitious, modern Industrial Strategy we want to unlock the innovations that will help people live better, longer lives by developing the medicines of the future. This investment will not only support high-value, highly-skilled jobs but will develop lifesaving treatments that could change lives across the UK.

We want to improve the way we make medicines and we are determined to capitalise on our research and innovation infrastructure, which is why today I am launching the start of the UKRI Research and Innovation Infrastructure Roadmap Programme.

From RRS Discovery to the UK Biobank and the Diamond Light Source to the UK Data Archive, this country is world renowned for its research and innovation infrastructure. Now, for the first time, we will map this to enable us to showcase our capabilities around the world and identify future opportunities.

Chief Executive designate of UK Research and Innovation, Sir Mark Walport said:

One of UK Research and Innovation’s key tasks is to make sure that the UK’s businesses and researchers are ready and able to seize the opportunity presented by the Industrial Strategy. So I’m very pleased that alongside today’s substantial investment in leading edge healthcare manufacturing technology, we are also starting the process to map out the UK’s nationally and internationally important research and innovation infrastructure. This will enable us to make sure we are getting the absolute best out the infrastructure we already have, and identify what else we will need to stay competitive in the next 10 to 15 years.

Healthcare challenge

Through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), the government is investing £181 million through the Leading Edge Healthcare and the Digital Health Technology Catalyst over 4 years in the areas of advanced therapies, medicines and vaccines development and manufacturing, alongside an estimated £250 million of private funding from industry.

The fund should return a value of £1 billion to the UK economy, support high-value, highly-skilled manufacturing, and increase productivity.

Nearly £50 million of this funding has been allocated to further the manufacture of medicines, ensuring that the right drugs and treatments reach patients.

The funding for the ISCF Leading Edge Healthcare Challenge allocation is made up of:

  • £21 million for Advanced Therapies Treatment Centres
  • £15 million for Medicines Manufacturing collaborative research and development round 1 competition
  • £8 million for Digital Health Catalyst round 1
  • £5.6 million for Viral vector production for Cell and Gene Therapy
  • £8 million for Digital Health Technology Catalyst round 2 - funding competition opens 15 February 2018
  • £10 million for the Medicines Manufacturing challenge round 2 - funding opens 12 March 2018

Commenting on the funding, Health and Social Care Minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said:

NHS patients want to know that they can get the most innovative and effective treatments as quickly as possible, and that’s what our investments will make happen.

Whether it is new cancer treatments, digital health technologies, or tools to help diagnose illness earlier, the government is partnering with industry to deliver the life-changing and life-saving treatments as quickly as anywhere in the world.

The projects announced as part of the ISCF Leading Edge Healthcare Challenge will not only improve accessibility and production of medicines, it will further reaffirm the UK’s position as being world-leading in research and development, which is a central to the Industrial Strategy.

During the UKRI Infrastructure Roadmap launch event due to be held at the Royal Society, Minister Gyimah will also announce that Professor Mark Thomson has been selected to be Executive Chair of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), following a fair and open competition. Professor Thomson is a Professor in Experimental Particle Physics based at Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge and has an extensive background researching high energy particle physics, and will take over from STFC Chief Executive Brian Bowsher at the beginning of April when UKRI comes into being. Professor Thomson will also lead delivery of the UKRI Research and Innovation Infrastructure Roadmap.

Announcing the appointment, Universities and Science Minister, Sam Gyimah, said:

Professor Thomson has a strong background in particle physics and will be a great asset to STFC, reinforcing the UK’s reputation as being world-beating in this exciting and ever-evolving area of science.

Boosting research and development is at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy and the role of Executive Chairs for the Research Councils will have a fundamental role in not only setting the priorities for their particular areas of interest, but of UKRI as a whole and I look forward to working with Professor Thompson and the rest of the UKRI team.

Brian Bowsher has done a terrific job leading STFC and I thank him for all his hard work and wish him well for the future.

Professor Thomson said:

I am passionate about STFC science, which spans the smallest scales of particle physics to the vast scales of astrophysics and cosmology, and it is a great honour be appointed to lead STFC as its new Executive Chair. The formation of UKRI presents exciting opportunities for STFC to further develop the UK’s world-leading science programme and to maximise the impact of the world-class facilities supported by STFC.

Professor Thomson is Professor of Experimental Particle Physics at the University of Cambridge. He has held national and international research leadership roles at the forefront of particle physics across a number of areas, including collider physics and neutrinos. Most recently, he has been the co-leader of the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), a collaboration of over 1000 scientists, working towards the construction of a major new project in the US. Professor Thomson was the scientific lead for the recent £65 million UK investment in DUNE, which secured the UK’s leading role in the construction of DUNE. In addition to his own research, Professor Thomson has held numerous research oversight roles both in the UK and abroad.

The post of Executive Chair of the STFC is subject to a pre-appointment hearing by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. The Committee will consider this appointment in due course.

Published 22 January 2018