Strengthening Our United Kingdom of Life Sciences

For the UK to fulfill its international aspirations, tapping into the soft power of its influential diaspora, including the 3,000+ life science leaders within the British Educated Life Scientists (BELS) global community, should be a high priority for UK organisations across our sector—government, quasi-government orgs, industry, academia, charities, healthcare orgs, service providers, incubators, investors, etc.

Soft power is the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion. It is a power of appeal and attraction that can shape the preferences of others. As with other forms of power, soft power often plays a significant role in influencing international relations and trade. Consider the substantial economic benefits derived by other countries that aptly access their talented diaspora:  Ireland, India, Israel, China, Australia and New Zealand, to name a few. Meanwhile, the UK languishes on this front.

Our soft power strengths can and should be used to ensure that the UK remains a world leader in the life sciences. Success in this arena is not just about achieving scientific breakthroughs or being recognized for such capabilities. In addition to establishing optimal business conditions, achieving our potential in the life science arena globally requires heavy doses of inward investment and lots of engaged global fans, both areas where BELS delivers impact.

Consider the story of inclisiran, a major success story from which the UK has derived sizeable income: New heart disease drug to be made available to NHS patients through ground-breaking collaboration. The Medicines Company, which developed inclisiran and trialled it in the UK, was acquired by Novartis in January for $9.7billion. The genesis of the UK’s involvement in the ongoing advancement of inclisiran stems from interactions between attendees at The Alumni Summit, a 2015 BELS event that drew graduates of Oxford region universities to catch up and connect with peers in the UK.

British-educated life scientists who are working abroad represent some of the best “sellers” of the UK’s scientific prowess—because they are part of it. And clearly we need their help, in light of Brexit-related challenges and a pressing need for more and better global marketing of our ever-evolving capabilities in the sector.

Surveys of BELS community members indicate a massive shortfall in the UK’s marketing of its life sciences on the global stage and a spotty narrative on its multitude of strengths, including the joined-up nature of the dialogue between government, academia and industry, which we believe surpasses any other nation.

BELS and our UK alumni working overseas are part of UK’s soft power. As such, our sector should prioritise activities that deliver engagement and tap into their influence within their orgs and beyond. BELS needs your support and your involvement as we work to mobilise this amazing overseas community.

Nigel Gaymond, Executive Chairman