Welcome for boost to life sciences

Last week’s Budget contained moves designed to strengthen Britain’s reputation as a life sciences hub, with one measure – the so-called patent box – achieving some immediate success.

George Osborne, the chancellor, announced that the amount of corporation tax applied to profits from patents and other types of intellectual property will be cut to 10% from April next year.

The patent box, first proposed by the Labour administration in 2009, aims to encourage companies to establish more research and development facilities in Britain.

Osborne said he hoped through such initiatives to make Britain “one of the most attractive places in the world to invent new medicines”.

The patent box was accompanied by a series of other boosts to life sciences, including protecting the science budget, the establishment of the Francis Crick Institute at St Pancras, London and £100m in support, alongside the private sector, for investment in new university research facilities.

Following the Budget, GlaxoSmithKline announced it would invest more than £500m in Britain over the coming years. Andrew Witty, the chief executive of Glaxo, says the patent box has “transformed the way in which we view the UK as a location for new investments”. (Article continues below)

The pharmaceutical giant is committing about £350m to a new biopharmaceutical factory in Ulverston, Cumbria. The plant, which is not likely to start operating until at least 2020, will be Glaxo’s first factory in Britain for 40 years.

In addition, Glaxo will invest more than £100m in its two Scottish sites, in Irvine and Montrose. Investments worth a total of £80m will also be made in the ­company’s sites in Ware, Hertfordshire, and Barnard Castle, County Durham.

Commentators from the science community welcomed the chancellor’s move but said more action was needed.

Paul Nurse, the president of the Royal Society, says: “These things are very welcome but on their own they are only green shoots. In the UK, the government and industry still invest a smaller percentage of our GDP in research and development than competitor economies.”