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The UK is a world leader in the life sciences, representing just 0.9% of the global population but producing 15.2% of the world’s most highly-cited articles.

Research productivity in this sector is twice as great as the United States and almost three times greater than in Germany.

The UK Government recently announced £17 m of new life sciences funding as part of the UK Government’s industrial strategy, which will support new drug discovery, translating scientific expertise into real life treatments. It will fund a cryo-electron microscope to help drug discovery become faster and cheaper and an innovation hub with state of the art equipment and research scientists; this lab will establish the UK Centre for Engineering Biology, Metrology and Standards.

R&D tax credits continue to support research intensive bioscience companies, benefiting both large and small organisations that work on innovative projects in science and technology.

At the heart of the UK’s internationally-recognised ‘Golden Triangle’, the Life Sciences and Healthcare (LSH) cluster within the Thames Valley is supported by a range of academic institutions and R&D centres of excellence. These include the University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes, the University of Reading and Imperial College London.

The University of Oxford has retained its position in The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018 as the top university in the world and, for the seventh consecutive year, holds first place globally for Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health. At the heart of its success is its ground-breaking research and innovation. The university’s Medical Sciences Division, the largest of its four academic divisions, continues to be recognised as an international centre of excellence for medical research and teaching, pioneering medical and biomedical investigation. It receives more than 60% of the university’s total external research income and has 23 Nobel Prize winners in medicine and chemistry.


Tropical medicine has remained a particular area of strength, with the university at the forefront of efforts to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2014, with researchers developing a possible vaccine to combat the virus within six months.


Furthermore, the University is at the forefront of global efforts to define, classify and understand disease at the molecular level. It is home to world-leading academic centres and institutes, such as the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, an international leader in genetics, genomics and structural biology and the Big Data Institute, which develops, evaluates and deploys efficient methods for acquiring and analysing information for large clinical research studies.


Investment in clinical research continues, highlighted by a five-year award of over £100m to fund research partnerships between the university and local hospitals.

The University of Reading is globally renowned in the sciences, including research pharmacology, medical chemistry, pharmaceuticals and pharmacy practice research. It is currently developing a new £50m Life and Health Sciences research facility and is seeking to establish a medical school as part of the next wave proposed by the Government.

Examples of the University of Reading’s expertise include:


Oxford Brookes University has a strong reputation for life sciences and health research, centred on the Department of Biological and Medical Sciences, where 95% of research is internationally recognised and 58% recognised as world leading or internationally excellent. Research groups within biomedicine include Cardiorespiratory, Chromatin and non-coding RNA, Genomic Instability, and Glycobiology and Cancer.


Two related research centres at the University include the Centre for Rehabilitation and the Institute of Public Care. The Centre for Rehabilitation combines clinical expertise, rehabilitation knowledge and the care of adults and children with neurological conditions to enable them to undertake exercise in a supported environment. The Institute of Public Care offers consultancy, applied research and evaluation, skills development and system design to the care sector across England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. It works with national, regional and local governments, NHS organisations and private and voluntary sector providers of care and support.


Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated one of the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines.


Royal Holloway, University of London (Surrey) has strong links to industry and research expertise in bioinformatics, bio-diagnostics, biological sciences and health and wellbeing.


The Thames Valley is also home to several other research centres of excellence.


Many life sciences companies in the region incorporate a significant research function; these include Abbvie, Abbott Laboratories, Boehringer Ingelheim, Becton Dickinson, GE Healthcare and Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, as well as bodies like the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville and the University of Buckingham’s Institute for Translational Medicine.


Harwell Campus, in Didcot, Oxfordshire, is a world leading site dedicated to the advancement of science, technology and innovation. Best known for its leadership of the European Space sector, its large ‘open access’ facilities such as the Diamond Light Source Synchrotron and the Central Laser Facility’s “Octopus” and inter-disciplinary collaboration between physical and life sciences also give strength to its HealthTec Cluster. Areas of focus include, inter alia: ageing, drug discovery and environmental impact on human health, with the driving objective to exploit the unique combination of facilities and highly skilled people to boost healthcare growth and innovation.