CEO Update | Monday 30 November

Vaccine news

The initial rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine in the UK is getting very close indeed. To support this effort, the Government has appointed Nadhim Zahawi MP as Minister for Vaccine Deployment in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). Nadhim has already asked me to pass on his thanks for all the work done by the BIA community and tweeted: “A big responsibility and a big operational challenge but absolutely committed to making sure we can roll out vaccines quickly – saving lives and livelihoods and helping us build back better”. Many of you will remember him speaking to us at the Gala Dinner in January and he retains his life sciences brief at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The MHRA is now extremely busy, reviewing both the Pfizer-BioNTech submission and responding to a DHSC requested review of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on Friday. Also in the pipeline is the vaccine from Novavax, which has today announced the progress of their clinical trials, including the successful enrolment of 15,000 participants in UK clinical trials.

Expect to see the launch of a public information campaign on vaccines this week, which I encourage you to amplify. The easiest way to do this is to follow and retweet messaging appearing on the NHS England twitter account.

Spending Review

Last week the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP delivered the 2020 Spending Review, which set out what the Government will spend on health, education, transport and other public services next year. For a full analysis on what this means for the UK life sciences sector please read our blog here.

The importance of our sector delivering vaccines quickly for the UK was made even more clear to me when the Office for Budget Responsibility’s analysis revealed that unemployment could be six million higher if COVID-19 vaccines were ineffective and public health restrictions needed to continue.

We were pleased to see the Government’s ambition for increased R&D investment materialise with £15bn committed for 2021-22 and increases for UKRI core budgets over the next three years. However, much is yet to be decided as government departments determine exactly how to spend their allocations. 

I was reassured to see the continued emphasis on the ambition for the UK to be a ‘science superpower’ in the Chancellor’s speech and the commitment to Innovate UK’s budget. However, it remains unclear whether this is a meaningful budget increase compared to previous years or whether it will enjoy the three-year certainty given to the rest of UKRI’s Councils.   

It was disappointing to see no mention of increased funding for the Biomedical Catalyst (BMC), which the BIA has called for. We hope Innovate UK will find the available headroom in its budget to fund the BMC, as it did this financial year. The BIA will be working to make sure that happens.

Today the Prime Minister announced the launch of the Government’s new capital investment fund, the Medicines and Diagnostic Manufacturing Transformation Fund, during a visit to North Wales. This multi-year fund will have an initial pot of £20 million and will be available from next year, with eligible manufacturing companies able to bid for the fund to help with their capital costs. We look forward to finding out more information when it becomes available over the coming months, ahead of the fund launching mid-next year. The fund will be run through a competitive process overseen by BEIS.


I am looking forward to seeing many of you at our bioProcessUK conference which starts tomorrow.  We will be meeting virtually this year and have made sure that the programme follows the same winning format we have had in previous years including informative talks, awards, the student poster competition and networking. While traditional pubs may be closed, I am delighted to announce the opening of The Bioprocess Arms tomorrow evening, our first ever virtual pub for some networking while beer tasting. All details including the programme can be found online here

Programme for Up and coming Life Sciences Entrepreneurs (PULSE)

Registration for our Programme for Up and coming Life Science Entrepreneurs (PULSE) is now open for 2021.

PULSE is a three-day intensive entrepreneurship programme, providing advanced practical advice, support and feedback from leading figures in the life sciences sector which culminates in a practice pitch to a panel of investors who offer feedback and guidance on how to improve. The program has always been very well-received and you can find testimonies from previous attendees here.

In 2021 PULSE will be held virtually, with a number of innovations to ensure networking, training and one-to-one mentorship can continue uninterrupted. If you’d like to take part, all details can be found on our website here.

China International Import Expo

It was great to see the Wuxi International Life Science Innovation Campus (I-Campus) showcased at the third China International Import Expo (CIIE) which was held in Shanghai this month. The I-Campus has now signed up 12 new innovative companies, secured two innovative partnerships with resident companies, which will drive higher synergy of the global healthcare ecosystem. We will continue to build on our relationship with the AstraZeneca I-Campus and you can find out more about our work in China here.

EuropaBio Director General

I’d like to welcome Claire Skentelbery as the new Director General at EuropaBio. Claire has worked in the development of scientific networks and associations for over 15 years and many of you will remember her from her time in Cambridge. Claire says: “I am proud to join an association so pivotal in the positioning, success and global representation of European biotechnology. Biotechnology is central to a healthy and sustainable Europe and we are at a key point in time to deliver innovation, policy and economic ambitions. I look forward to working with the global biotech community with such a talented and motivated team”.


Steve Bates

Chief Executive Officer


Steve Bates has been the CEO of the UK Bioindustry Association since 2012. He currently chairs the International Council of Biotech Associations and has been a Board member of Europabio since 2015. Steve is the visible face of the vibrant UK life sciences industry to government and media. He sits on the UK’s Life Sciences Council and Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Implementation Board. Steve has championed with government effective industrial incentives like the Biomedical Cataylst which have crowded-in private sector investment into UK SMES. He has forged links for the sector across the USA, Europe and in China. In his time at the BIA Steve has developed new member groups focused on cell and gene therapy, genomics and engineered biology. A strong advocate of partnership working, Steve champions sector collaboration with research charities and academia. Proud to lead an organisation with a diverse Board with over 40% female representation, Steve is committed to next generation talent and developing the skills needed for the sector to flourish. Before the BIA, Steve worked for Genzyme and as an advisor to the UK Government of Tony Blair. He was made OBE for services to innovation in 2017.