Jeremy Hunt’s ‘budget for growth’ has laid out the UK government’s proposed road to making the country a ‘science superpower.’ Whilst there is a regrettable, and perhaps inevitable, lack of money for healthcare professionals, the life science industry will be incentivised by the Spring Budget. Innovation and championing the use of AI are key take-home messages.
Good news in R&D
The budget announces a partial reversal to R&D tax credit cuts. The consolidation of different forms of credit and cuts to SME tax credits, announced last year, drew criticism from the life sciences industry. Eligible SMEs will now be able to claim greater credit if they spend 40% or more of total expenditure on R&D. The targeting of R&D intense SMEs, which includes cash tax credit, is expected to drive life science innovation.
“September’s mini-budget damaged start-up and early-stage growth by cutting R&D tax credits. This has been partially reversed for the Biotech sector, but the requirement for broader innovation clearly extends far beyond this. This is a welcome step toward a more favourable approach to R&D,” says Emma Goodford, Head of Life Sciences, and Innovation at Knight Frank.
Riding the AI wave
The UK government also announced it will invest £900m to provide AI computing power to researchers and a £1m prize awarded each year to researchers driving AI progress over the next decade. By supporting businesses, funding opportunities, and providing access to state-of-the-art R&D facilities, the government hopes to put the country at the forefront of AI application.
GlobalData predicts that the global market for specialized AI applications will be worth $146 billion by 2030 and AI is already fast becoming a central component of healthcare frameworks.
“Driving forward technology-enabled efficiency in healthcare is essential to manage maximised waiting lists, staff shortages and improve working conditions. Investment into new developments is a key first step,” says Afshin Attari, Director of Public Sector & Unified Platforms at Exponential-e, an NHS technology partner.
Medical device regulation is set to become more streamlined as a result of implementations from the Budget. The MHRA will receive £10m extra funding over the next two years and is ‘exploring’ partnerships with other countries including the US and Japan to streamline approval. The use of ‘Brexit freedoms’ in the report will raise eyebrows considering agencies in Europe are also being considered for partnerships.
Those involved in cancer and mental health therapeutics will be the most pleased as, from 2024, the MHRA will have rapid approval protocols in place for the most impactful technologies and medicines. The government already outlined £10m in the report to be invested in mental health via the suicide prevention voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE).
Over five years, £310m will be provided to continue facilitating digital health innovations for mental health, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular conditions. The implementation of digital technologies can alleviate pressures within the NHS, and the extra funding in the Spring Budget consolidates strategies from the Department of Health and Social Care’s 2022 plan.
“Digital health is becoming part of the armoury of tools that our clinicians have. If we get this right, this is about keeping people as people and stopping them from becoming patients in the first place,” says Chris Chaney, CEO of CW+, the charity of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Foundation Trust.
The government has said it hopes to maximise and accelerate patient access to treatments. Given the holistic nature of healthcare, and the continued negligence over doctor and nurse pay, whether the goals of the budget are achieved remains to be seen.