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In conversation with Dr Geoff Davison, Chief Executive of Bionow and organiser of the BioFocus Conference

The North East LEP is proud to sponsor the BioFocus Conference, which takes place at the County Hotel in Newcastle on Tuesday 3 July 2018.

Welcome to my BioFocus Conference blog. The countdown to this year’s BioFocus Conference begins now and the Bionow team look forward to welcoming you to your conference on the 3 July at the County Hotel in Newcastle.

Over the coming weeks I will be updating you on this year’s BioFocus Conference, as speakers are announced and the programme takes shape. What can you expect this year? As always, this is a Conference to showcase and promote the Life Sciences sector of the North East, an opportunity for you to make those connections that help move your business forward, listen to the expertise and experience of interesting speakers – all that will happen this year.

However, things are changing, there is the emerging Newcastle Laboratories which is now challenging St James’ Park on the City Centre’s Western Skyline. There is a rapidly developing and vibrant biotech cluster in the North East, increasing interaction between different parts of the life sciences sectors. NETPark, the universities, the NHS and other institutions all make this part of the country particularly exciting, and that is going to be reflected in the conference.

This dynamic environment brings me to North East Local Enterprise Partnership, who I thank for kindly sponsoring the event. The North East LEP is a key actor and plays a major role in the development of our sector in this region. This is reflected in the theme of promoting regional excellence. There are a lot of things that the North East do very well, we see it all around us in the great businesses, universities and research that this region is renowned for. Let’s tell people about this, BioFocus is an opportunity to champion this regional excellence.

Finally, the venue is fantastic. It is the County Hotel, directly opposite Central Station in Newcastle, so there is zero chance you will get lost on the way! We have hired an entire floor of the hotel, complete with two stylish, spacious conference rooms. Exhibition space is now available and the floor plan lends itself to lots of interaction between delegates, exhibitors and speakers. In short, it is a great venue for this event.

I’ll be back with further updates soon, and I look forward to meeting you on the 3 July.

All the best

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Growing the contribution of the North East pharmaceuticals sector

In conversation with Martin Inskip of First for Pharma

As the UK Government is framing its new Industrial Strategy and is working through the issues involved in leaving the European Union, First for Pharma (FFP) and the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), supported by the North East LEP, have worked together on a new report which aims to profile the North East pharmaceutical sector and identify how its economic contribution can be enhanced in the region.

The North East sector was identified as one of the key opportunity areas in the refreshed North East SEP published in March 2017 and was profiled in Sir John Bell’s report to Government in preparation for the planned sector deal.

The new report on the North East’s pharmaceutical sector is based on both analysis of published data and a series of interviews with 12 of the main manufacturing companies in the region, who employ 3500 people between them.

The findings demonstrate the economic importance of the sector nationally and regionally. The report highlights:

• A well-established and diverse sector with different business models, technology ranges and scales of production with an international reputation for business resilience and regulatory reliability.

• A unique profile in UK terms including a number of contract development and contract manufacturers, key supply chain companies and large multinational drug developers. Together, the region’s manufacturers have full capability to develop drug manufacturing processes for clinical development and commercial supply of tableted medicines.

• International ownership including investments from the United States, Japan and India, as well as from the UK.

• A GVA contribution to the UK estimated to be between £0.73 billion and £1.28 billion annually, with an average of 86% of their products being exported with 64% of exports going to the United States.

• For the region, the sector employs between 4,300 and 5,300 people and contributes £450-£790 million to the region’s Gross Value Added (GVA). Including indirect and induced effects, the North East pharmaceutical manufacturing industry supports between 18,800 and 23,500 jobs across the UK and adds £0.73-£1.28 billion to the UK economy.

• Almost 2000 jobs are in high value research or manufacturing roles with the largest cohort aged between 31 and 50 (49%). The quality and stability of the employees in the local labour force is one of the North East’s competitive advantages and the size and sector stability means there are opportunities to build careers in the region. The sector is growing and expecting to recruit additional jobs to its current manufacturing and research workforce this financial year (2017-2018).

The research highlights a number of opportunities and challenges, including strengthening the profile, performance and contribution of the sector through innovation investment and skills, and stimulating more employment in the region through investment and through the supply chain and logistics. It also highlights the importance of a good outcome to the Brexit discussions, where the regulatory regime is seen as crucial and regulatory disruption seen as a significant threat.

The report identifies the following recommendations:

• Supply chain strategy: Development of a supply chain and logistics strategy: work should be undertaken to understand opportunities to strengthen the supply chain in the region and identify opportunities for improving the logistics support, including taking advantage of the North East’s growing digital capabilities.

 Innovation: work to foster the following innovation capabilities in the North East should include ultra-high potency manufacturing; the application of continuous manufacturing for drug manufacturers and smart pharmaceutical delivery including packaging, sensing and new formulations as well as process developments including application of digital, robotic and low carbon technologies.

• Skills: the sector should work with the North East LEP to develop a clearer analysis of the current skills gaps, potential future needs and inform the content of these initiatives.

• Regulatory Environment: The continuing importance of the regulatory environment should be promoted and concerns about the impact of the vote to leave the European Union should be communicated during the current period of consultation on the negotiations.

• Co-ordination: Co-ordination within the sector and with other parts of North East industry should be enhanced to take these recommendations forward regionally and nationally.

Download or read a copy of the full report here.

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How to deliver North East economic growth through Life Sciences innovation

Dr Peter Simpson, N8 Research Partnership and Life Sciences lead on the North East LEP Innovation Board, and Geoff Davison, Bionow

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) Innovation Board members have been working on a new strategy to grow the North East’s Health and Life Sciences sector.

The North East LEP has identified Life Sciences as an important strategic area of economic activity in the region, and so the LEP Innovation Board’s experts are keen to develop an industry strategy and action plan to foster growth of the Health and Life Sciences sector in the North East. This represents a great opportunity to generate economic returns from more and better jobs if it is embraced by key partners.

The North East is already a great place to do Life Sciences, and a great place to live and work. But we feel there is so much more potential to unlock. Over recent months, we have sought your views on a range of possible priorities that we had scoped to help achieve this. For those of you who filled in our Life Sciences survey, a huge thank you – and congratulations to Julie Wright, Commercial Manager
at Data Trial Limited; winner of our Kindle Fire prize!

This feedback has been incredibly helpful in sharpening the vision and directing the prioritisation of actions. From analysing your feedback, the Life Sciences working group has agreed three key areas for prioritised LEP support and additional opportunities.

Areas we have identified as possible priority opportunities include:

• Fully leveraging nationally important assets and centres – within the region and beyond – to help local companies.
• Enhancing specialist funding opportunities – to ensure that innovative regional companies have access to the funding and support they need to thrive here
• Facilitating strong linkages to academia and other external innovation sources
o Creating the conditions to build a cluster economy in Health in Development & Ageing
o Enhanced Health Grand Challenges Programme

In order to support these priorities, support and grow the business base the team have also been working through ways for the LEP to ensure:
• A long term plan for provision of specialist health and life sciences company accommodation
• Sector-specific specialist skills sector plans
• Effective strategic leadership & coordination for the region
• Promoting the life sciences sector nationally and internationally
• Growth of our distinctive assets and niches
• Improving the Scientific, Technical and Leadership Skills base

The Life Sciences working group and the North East LEP Innovation Board are doing this work as volunteers – because our passion is for the growing the economy of the region together.

So thank you again for your input, and we look forward to sharing with you an update on the LEP response to our proposals shortly.

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In conversation with Dr Peter Simpson, director of N8 Research Partnership and member of the North East LEP Innovation Board

North East economic growth through Life Sciences innovation – can you help by completing our survey?

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) is currently working on a new strategy to grow the North East’s Health and Life Sciences sector.

I have the pleasure of representing this sector in my role as Health and Life Sciences Lead on the North East LEP’s Innovation Board. Over the last 16 years in delivering innovation in technologies, products and partnerships working in major global pharmaceutical organisations, I have learnt how important a supportive environment, research community, translational tools, skills and resources can be to make innovation happen.

The North East LEP identified Life Sciences as an important strategic area of economic activity in the North East. The LEP is keen to develop an industry strategy and action plan that will foster growth of the Health and Life Sciences sector in the North East – generating economic returns from more and better jobs.

The North East is a great place to do Life Sciences, and a great place to live and work. But there is so much more potential to unlock. The Innovation Board wants to help grow this key economic area through targeted, insightful actions that drive up innovation, and economic investment.

We want to position the North East as a leader in Life Sciences, attracting more companies to locate and employ skilled people in the region, and to help those companies already here to grow and flourish. To deliver this we have been thinking about how to leverage the region’s academic and clinical expertise, and key research institutes and Catapults, to grow the sector.

Seven months ago, the North East LEP Innovation Board set up a working group of volunteers from public and private sector organisations. They have been working in recent months to consider, with me, what we on the Innovation Board should do to help Life Sciences flourish. Under the coordination of Geoff Davison, chief executive of Bionow, the group have been very busy understanding and assessing current capabilities and capacities in the region; and identifying the North East’s strengths, and gaps, in support mechanisms.

We know that we don’t have all the ideas, and we would love to hear views from people working across Health and Life Sciences in the North East to shape priorities to emerge this piece of work.

Areas we have identified as possible opportunities so far include:

• Developing a cluster economy opportunity around world-leading companies selecting the North East for production plants – supplementing the supply chain

• Improving and leveraging the structures that support innovation commercialisation

• Unlocking the commercial potential of North East universities’ areas of world class research

• Helping clinical development in NHS by infrastructure that translates discovery through development to adoption

• Supporting existing North East key high growth businesses and sub-sectors

• Developing a specialist life science skills strategy for the region

We can’t do everything, so focus is vital. What steps would have the most impact on economic growth of the North East region? What have we missed?

I am most grateful to my colleagues on the working group. We are all in this together, I would love to see even more engagement from the industrial, public and academic sector to help move Health and Life Sciences forward in the North East. Insights from businesses, individuals, academics and clinicians are key to translating ideas into actions, and actions into results.

The Health and Life Sciences working group and the North East LEP Innovation Board are doing this work as volunteers because their passion is for the growing the economy of the region together.

Please contribute to this work by filling in our easy-to-use survey, and you can also volunteer time to help with the work too.

By Dr Peter Simpson