WHY LOBBYING MATTERS TO BIOSCIENCE

Chris Calland

This morning I had the honour of speaking at one of the BioIndustry Association's regular excellent networking breakfasts on the topic of why lobbying matters to the bioscience sector.

It reminded me once again how it’s not always immediately obvious how political debates and discussions in the corridors of power affect the day-to-day workings of a particular industry. Understandably, many companies are often too busy to consider how political decisions may affect them and what the real value of engagement can be.

When it comes to bioscience, I always like to think of the example of George W Bush and Barack Obama.  There are plenty of differences between those two US Presidents, but if you think about how Mr Bush’s views on stem cell research impacted on UK science (by allowing the UK to steal a march) and how Mr Obama’s support for stem cell research presents a challenge to the UK’s competitiveness, then it’s clear how politics in one country can impact on a sector like biotech in another.

Anyone involved in UK biotech knows that access to finance has been THE major issue for the sector in recent years. That’s why (as I have seen first-hand) the BioIndustry Association has consistently been engaging with Government on measures such as the Patent Box for retaining intellectual property in the UK, as well as for the science budget to be protected at a time of austerity.

And one of the clearest demonstrations yet of how public policy affects the bioscience sector was last year’s UK Government Budget, which contained some positive news for many in the sector, not least the simplification and enhancement of the R&D tax regime for SMEs.

But that welcome support for the sector didn’t come about out of thin air – it was the result of constant engagement by prominent industry voices such as the BioIndustry Association.

Getting the message across can be achieved in several ways: making submissions to the Treasury ahead of each year’s Budget was an important thing to do, but so was briefing the Opposition Treasury Team every year in anticipation of any change of Government.

So lobbying does matter, and it matters to bioscience – just like it does to any other industry.

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