Squeezed government biomedical innovation budget puts future medicines at risk, FOI reveals  

Insufficient government funding is putting the UK’s pipeline of future biomedical innovations at risk, according to data revealed in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.  

Less than 4% of projects that were ranked as worthy of investment received funding from a key government programme for early-stage biotech companies in 2019/20, down from 31% in 2014/15.  

The BioIndustry Association (BIA) requested information from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which runs the grant funding programme, called the Biomedical Catalyst. The response showed that over the last three years, research project applications totalling a value of over £530 million have not been funded despite passing the quality threshold. The projects could have leveraged approximately £2.5 billion in private investment, estimates from IPSOS Mori suggest.  

A recent independent analysis from IPSOS Mori showed that the Biomedical Catalyst leverages over £5 of private investment per £1 of public expenditure and enabled companies in receipt of grants to increase employment by 11-15% over 3-5 years.  

The FOI data demonstrates that the budget for the Biomedical Catalyst is not sufficient to support the number of high-quality applications it is receiving. This will impact the UK’s preparedness for future pandemics, the number of highly skilled jobs available post COVID-19, and the supply of innovative medicines in the coming years.  

The BIA is calling on the Government to increase the annual budget for the Biomedical Catalyst to £100 million in the upcoming Spending Review to boost economic recovery.  

Steve Bates OBE, Chief Executive of the BIA said: “The Biomedical Catalyst is a key source of early-stage funding for UK bioscience companies to help them scale scientific ideas into products and therapies for patients. It is not acceptable that its budget is only sufficient to fund less than 4% of deserving applications.   

“This tried and tested success story of industrial policy, which has resulted in increased private investment and R&D expenditure, needs a significant annual budget increase to keep in line with demand.  

“With healthcare a global priority, the risk is that UK ideas and early stage companies could be purchased and developed overseas, removing future benefits for the UK economy, taxpayer and patients while at the same time reducing the country’s preparedness for future pandemics.” 


Notes to Editors  

  1. For further information please contact Jack Fellows, Communications and Media Manager at the BioIndustry Association at [email protected]  

  1. The BIA is calling on the Government to increase the annual budget for the Biomedical Catalyst to £100 million in the upcoming Spending Review to boost economic recovery. The BIA’s full submission to the upcoming Spending Review can be found here

  1. For examples of companies that have benefitted from the Biomedical Catalyst, see here.  

  1. Read the Ipsos MORI report on the Biomedical Catalyst here.  

  1. Read more on the BIA’s work on the Biomedical Catalyst here.  

  1. Read the FOI below