Supporting sciences

The UK government reaffirms its commitment to the life sciences


You’d be forgiven for finding it hard to keep up with what feels like the torrent of reports, papers and studies commissioned by the government, with the Brexit process alone responsible for a hefty pile.

One strategy report that did catch my eye this week, however, considers industry proposals to help the UK remain a world leader in life sciences.

The sector is of critical importance to the UK economy and UK health. It is the home to 5000 companies, nearly 235,000 employees, and had a turnover of £64 billion in 2016.

This success story was highlighted in – yes, you have guessed it – another government green paper, published in January 2017 on the UK industrial strategy. With the lofty aim to “address long-term challenges to the UK economy...improving living standards and economic growth by increasing productivity and driving growth across the whole country,” the green paper identified the life sciences as one of the UK’s top five sectors.

The follow-up report published this week, and led by University of Oxford’s Sir John Bell, has worked with stakeholders to identify opportunities for the government to support the life sciences. It highlights key areas for development, including the NHS, data management and sharing, and skills development.

To support the proposal, Business Secretary Greg Clark announced £14 million funding to support 11 medical technology research centres to encourage collaboration between the NHS and industry in developing and bringing new technologies to patients through the National Institute for Health Research.

“This will mean patients will continue to benefit from new technologies, which will help to improve diagnosis and get them the treatment they need quickly,” he explained.

This week in OT, we have seen numerous examples of patient-centric innovation, from the scientists that have developed a smartphone app to look for the first signs of pancreatic cancer, to the Moorfields Eye Hospital consultant ophthalmologist using blood drops for severe dry eye syndrome. And when it comes to tech development in optics transforming diagnosis for patients, many would point to the revolutionary impact of OCT – look out for the dedicated OCT edition of OT in October.

For those hungry for further education opportunities, it is not too late to book on to the AOP’s Therapeutics London Conference 2017 (24–25 September) and 43rd Hospital Optometrists Annual Conference in Leeds (7–8 October), offering a wealth of CET-accredited content.