Organisations representing the UK pharmaceutical and life sciences industry have responded positively to new measures outlined in the recent Budget that are designed to improve conditions for those in the sector.
The coalition government has won praise from industry stakeholders after highlighting the healthcare and science sector as an important player in the UK economy and taking the relevant action to support it.
In its Plan for Growth Budget report, the government observed that life sciences industries, including the pharmaceutical sector, are responsible for employing more than 100,000 people, primarily in highly-skilled jobs.
However, it noted that in recent years, businesses operating in this area have faced a number of difficulties due to issues with Britain's regulatory environment and overall infrastructure.
For example, legislative changes over the last two decades have been criticised for hindering healthcare research by creating an overly complex governance environment, while it was also suggested that the sector is finding recruitment difficult due to a lack of relevant skills among UK graduates.
To combat these problems, chancellor George Osborne outlined a list of 16 measures specifically aimed at fostering further growth in these industries.
Key among these will be the establishment of a new health research regulatory agency that will aim to streamline the regulation surrounding UK-based clinical trials and work alongside the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to create a unified approval process.
According to the government, this will make conducting clinical studies in Britain more efficient and cost-effective, ensuring the nation is capable of "delivering clinical trial set up times to rival the best in Europe".
The clinical research field will also benefit from moves to open up access to data to the public, academics, industry organisations and investors, thus stimulating interest in trial participation and encouraging collaboration-based innovation.
Other measures outlined in the Budget include the promotion of collaboration between the industry and educators in order to address the skills deficit.
Meanwhile, changes are also being made to intellectual property laws to ensure that companies are able to easily take full financial advantage of the products they create in the UK, without fear of infringement.
Since the announcement of the Budget on March 23rd 2011, Mr Osborne's plans have received a largely warm welcome from those in the life science sector.
For example, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) stated that the announcements represent a "real response" to the challenges affecting the market, praising the commitment shown to cutting red tape and improving access to medicines.
An ABPI statement said they will help to make the UK a "global destination site for clinical trials", adding: "The measures set out today reflect the success of the Office for Life Sciences and demonstrate the opportunities that can be realised when government, industry and academia work in collaboration."
Similarly, BioIndustry Association chief executive Nigel Gaymond stated that the Budget as a whole will bring numerous benefits to UK life science companies, particularly praising the expansion of the research and development tax credit scheme.
Meanwhile, LifeSciences UK suggested that the initiatives are indicative of the government's recognition of the essential role played by the industry in supporting the economy as a whole.
However, other organisations have expressed more guarded views about the Budget proposals, with suggestions that the government could have gone further in its support.
For example, pharmaceutical company Shire, which relocated from the UK to Ireland in 2008, has indicated that it does not have any immediate plans to follow the example of advertising company WPP and move its headquarters back to Britain.
A statement from the company said: "We will look at the detail of these interesting proposals but at this stage our position remains unchanged."
Additionally, Chemical Industry Association chief executive Steve Elliott stated that concerns still remain over the impact of the government's energy policies on business.
He stated that the Carbon Price Support measure will cause energy-intensive companies to be subject to unreasonably high business costs in coming years.
"Many aspects of the chancellor's announcement will meet with business support, but for a large number of companies the costs of energy policies will remain a significant barrier to investing in Britain and competing globally," Mr Elliot warned.