Biotech speed dating

Sapna Chadha, Philip Kendall and Dr Lutz Berg

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Sapna Chadha:

Why is British biotech flourishing? Two speakers from the Biotech Team at UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) revealed the tricks of the trade to an audience of 40 diplomats at the Swiss Embassy, in a talk co-hosted by the Association of Economic Representatives in London and the London Diplomatic Science Club.

Philip Kendall, responsible for international relations in the Biotech and Pharmaceuticals team, first explained to diplomats where UKTI fits between the FCO and the newly-formed department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR).

As the agency responsible for helping British companies internationalise, UKTI uses the FCO’s network of missions abroad to help British business discover new markets as well as attract FDI.

Networking and funding have been essential in putting the British biotech industry – now worth £5 billion and employing 90,000 – first in Europe (a ranking hotly disputed by the Swiss!)

According to Kendall, because the start-up costs in this sector are so high, building partnerships is key.

“In short, the role of UKTI is basically a ‘dating agency’ for biotech business partnerships,” he joked.

Chadha, who helps British biotech businesses attract much-needed FDI, revealed what makes the British biotech industry so attractive to foreign investors – scientific excellence; government funding for research and development; a good regulatory environment (such as intellectual property laws, flexible labour laws); easy access to venture capital; and partnering between business and academic institutions.

The only drawback was entrenched public opinion against issues such as GM crops, animal testing and, to a lesser degree, stem cell research.

The evening ended with a flurry of biotech speed dating, much to everyone’s satisfaction.

Want to know more? Contact Dr Lutz-Peter Berg at the Swiss Embassy: