Parliament Day 2022: enthusiasm for the life sciences across Westminster

BIA Parliament day

The BIA’s 22nd annual Parliament Day marked a triumphant return to in-person meetings as we brought 32 member representatives to Westminster, providing a great opportunity to influence MPs, ministers and senior civil servants on behalf of the innovative life science and biotech sector.

Quality time with parliamentarians

One highlight of the day was a meeting with Lord Kamall, Minister for Technology, Innovation and Life Sciences, at the Department of Health and Social Care. Lord Kamall was very receptive to BIA members’ points on scale-up capital and the growing importance of data across healthcare and the life sciences.

We were also delighted to meet senior MPs from the Labour Party including Jonathan Reynolds MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Industrial Strategy, and Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Science, Research and Innovation. Members were encouraged by the constructive conversations they had with Labour MPs, raising hopes that the party is taking a keen interest in the sector in the run-up to the next general election.

Members later made their way onto the sunny terrace of the House of Commons for our lunch reception, kindly hosted by Daniel Zeichner MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Life Sciences. Daniel emphasised the importance of the BIA’s members, saying that the Association’s good work depends upon their commitment and enthusiasm.

BIA Parliament day

We were joined by George Freeman MP, the then-Minister for Science, who reasserted the Government’s commitment to the Life Sciences Vision published last year and praised the integral role of the BIA in representing the sector. We are very grateful to Daniel and George for their support and for taking time to meet and talk to members at the event.

The BIA’s policy priorities

Our key messages on increasing investment in the sector, improving patients’ access to medicines and supporting emerging technologies underpinned conversations throughout the day. For example, the importance of harnessing emerging technologies like genomics was discussed with Richard Scott, Chief Medical Officer of Genomics England. We focussed on the specific needs of genomics SMEs, particularly the importance of access to data.

BIA Parliament day

Elsewhere, two groups of members headed to HM Treasury, one for a meeting with the investment taxation team, who are responsible for R&D tax credits and other reliefs, with the other group meeting the health and social care team overseeing NHS and NIHR spending.

Another organisation with which the BIA has formed a strong working relationship is the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). This enabled a productive discussion with their CEO Dr Sam Roberts and Dr Meindert Boysen, furthering our work on securing access to innovative medicines for patients in the NHS.

It was rewarding to engage with a wide variety of organisations, from the Department for International Trade to Innovate UK and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). Our ongoing work with these stakeholders laid the foundations for productive discussions of key topics like the Biomedical Catalyst and the Data Saves Lives strategy.

Face to face influencing

As our Parliament Day participants moved between Parliament and various government buildings was, in the post-pandemic environment, an exciting reminder of the value of face-to-face meetings. One group’s jaunt through the corridors of the House of Lords to make the lunch reception was undoubtedly more interesting than sitting in the lobby of a Zoom meeting.

To round the day off, we assembled on the roof terrace at 55 Broadway for a discussion of how the day had gone and informal drinks reception. Steve Bates, CEO of the BIA, led the discussion, gaining positive feedback from members who appreciated the range and receptiveness of the stakeholders they had met. This positivity was echoed by the BIA staff. We thoroughly enjoyed speaking to members as we reflected on the day and in many cases put faces to names for the first time. Engaging with members face-to-face and providing quality networking opportunities is what we do best, and Parliament Day made a welcome return to this.

During the course of the day, we met with seven parliamentarians, including one minister and four shadow ministers. We had a further twelve meetings with civil servants. With the interest in our sector shown by parliamentarians and civil servants alike since the COVID-19 pandemic showing no sign of waning, it was excellent to see the influence that BIA messaging has had on senior stakeholders. Beyond this, though, the day offered another opportunity to unite the BIA community as we focus on preparing for the future. We can’t wait to do it all again next year.

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