Michael Hopkins
Mon 25 Sep 2017, 15:30 - 17:00
Old Surgeons' Hall

If you have a question about this talk, please contact: Dominic Berry (dberry33)

This presentation summarises the argument of 'Science, the State and the City' by Geoffrey Owen and Michael Hopkins (2016), exploring potential answers to the following questions: (i) Why it has been so difficult for the UK to produce large therapeutic biotech firms similar to those seen in the USA? (ii) why have UK firms not been able to commercialise therapeutic drugs to rival those that US firms have brought to market? Of course the therapeutic biotech sector (which aims to develop novel drugs) is not the only sector in which countries have struggled to emulate US success and so answers to these questions have implications for other, particularly knowledge-intensive, sectors.

Many prior studies trace such difficulties through comparative studies drawing on National Systems of Innovation (NSI) or similar approaches (e.g. Porter 1990; Murmann 2003; Lacasa et al 2004; Patel et al. 2008). These often identify sources of weaknesses or strengths as nations attempt to build national industries that can compete internationally, particularly around emerging technologies. Similarly this account draws on the NSI approach to explore the UK government’s and investment community’s efforts to mimic the US innovation ecosystem, the outcomes of these efforts, and the lessons from this experience for policy making.

The account provided here stresses the importance of, and interactions between, a national sector’s starting conditions, system dynamics including the role of virtuous cycles (Hekkert et al. 2007), international competition and crucially the role of scale – not just in the focal sector (therapeutic biotech) but also the role of scale supporting sectors, such as venture capital, that may influence the performance of biotech firms (Hopkins et al. 2013). Implications for the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy in the context of a post-Brexit UK (not anticipated at the time of the book's publication in 2016) will be discussed.