Wearable technology and diagnostic devices; then add to the mix orthopaedics 3D printing and bionics. Together these technologies, providing personalised medicine, helped boost the UK life science sector by £6.8 billion in 2017, giving it £70 billion revenue, finds a report from Santander and manufacturing organisation Make UK. 298 businesses joined the UK life sciences industry during the year.
The report said that the UK life sciences sector is well placed to tackle longer term trends such an ageing population and the fourth industrial revolution, driven by machine learning, AI, data analytics and networked communications.
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UK life sciences: the biggest opportunity
Wearable consumer technologies and diagnostic devices such as smart watches and activity trackers, which monitor and record health metrics, supporting personalised precision medicine, represent perhaps the biggest opportunity, suggested the report.
It also highlighted orthopaedics 3D printing and bionics as a key future opportunity, with technological implementation in this area helping to improve the production of protheses, implants, pins and plates. It suggested that these technologies will also support tailored solutions for patients.
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The report also comes with a warning: cyber security and privacy risks emerge from the use of personalised devices. It suggested that the UK life sciences sector will “need to balance the importance of collecting and using the data of its consumers with the need to protect their privacy and rights.” It suggested that companies will need to invest in protecting their products from attacks.
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“The UK life sciences sector is in a fantastic position to be able to take advantages of both current and future health trends and we expect to see the sector continue its growth over the next decade,” suggested Francesco Arcangeli, Economist, Make UK.
To capitalise on this, he said that: “The focus should be on continuing to increase investment, which the government is planning to do over the next decade, as this will drive R&D and innovation, which is vital for the UK life sciences sector to remain competitive.”
Research and Development (R&D) is also key to the future success of the sector and the UK government’s target is to increase R&D investment from current levels of 1.8% of GDP to 2.4% by 2027. The global market for digital health services such as smart devices and phone apps alone may reach £150 billion in 2020, more than doubling its current value. For the UK, new research centres are set to be developed that will invest heavily in R&D and innovation and create thousands of jobs and leverage millions of private sector investment in R&D.
Finally, the report said that an ageing population brings significant opportunities for those working within the sector with the demand for new medicines and devices constantly increasing while a high-tech sector such as UK life sciences can be both a producer and adopter of new and innovative 4IR technology.
See also: Global life science supply chains in a post-pandemic world – How global life science supply chains can leverage digital technologies