Bringing together the North’s expertise in health and life sciences could create more than 50,000 new jobs and add £16.5bn to the economy each year, a new report says.
The report by the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) and the NP11 group of Northern LEPs says the academic and business expertise in life sciences across the region could rival the ‘golden triangle’ of London, Oxford and Cambridge.
Developing the region’s health sector into a “second UK supercluster” could both improve health – and therefore productivity – in the North, but also create more than 50,000 new jobs and more than triple the industry’s contribution to the economy.
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The report comes as dozens of life sciences firms in the North have played a key role in the UK response to the coronavirus pandemic, including Fujifilm Diosynth at Billingham, Croda in East Yorkshire and GSK at Barnard Castle, all of whom are involved with vaccine manufacturing.
The North currently has around 21% of the UK’s life sciences workforce, plus areas of health expertise at a number of universities, leading health trusts and National Institutes for Health Research.
The NHSA/NP11 report says the region should focus on areas of global opportunity where it has existing strengths, including advanced therapies, infectious diseases, diagnostics and medtech, data and artificial intelligence, healthy ageing, and mental health and wellbeing.
Dr Séamus O’Neill, CEO of the Northern Health Science Alliance, said: “Our new report shows how transformative a Northern life sciences supercluster would be for the country through an opportunity to genuinely level up the North of England in its areas of excellence.
“To make this happen the region needs the right public sector investment and the time and authority to build the cluster. As an alliance of universities, NHS trusts and Academic Health Science Networks, we are delighted to launch this opportunity with the region’s LEPs.
“To truly level up we need Government commitment to the principle that if it can be done in the North, then it should be done in the North.”
The report recommends increased levels of public and private investment into health-related R&D in the North, plus measures to help companies, universities and other public bodies collaborate more closely.
It also wants help for life sciences start-ups and for a drive to develop the higher level skills that companies in the sector will need to develop.
James Muir, innovation lead for the NP11 and chair of Sheffield City Region LEP said: “Driving growth through innovation is central to the UK’s long-term recovery and prosperity. Health and life sciences are recognised internationally as a UK strength, but we can go so much further.
“Our globally respected NHS, universities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Catapults and strong industry leadership working together to support the growth of innovative clusters across the UK will be essential in realising the country’s full potential in life sciences.
“The scale of opportunity is clear in this report; the NP11 worked in partnership with NHSA and others across the North to produce it, and this collaborative approach is exactly what is needed to achieve the benefits of the North’s life sciences supercluster.”