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#Comment: UK-India Trade – Big potential in Health, Life Sciences but long way to go yet

Last year, Indian pharmaceutical major Cipla announced a £100m investment into the UK aimed at the launch of a range of drugs in the areas of respiratory, oncology and antiretroviral sectors.

Dr Reddy’s Laboratories bought a contract development and manufacturing site in Yorkshire around a decade ago, with the company announcing an additional round of investment in 2012.

More than 20% of UK Product Licences name an Indian manufacturer and around 38% of UK Product Licences name an Indian API source.  In other words, the active ingredients of a large proportion of drugs in the UK are sourced from India.

India is the number one provider of generic drugs to the NHS.  There are thousands of Indian doctors, nurses and other health professionals working in the NHS.

Despite all this, there is still a long way to go before the potential between the UK and India can be realised in health and life sciences.

According to the part of the UK government that focuses on selling UK healthcare expertise abroad – Healthcare UK – India accounts for only £3m worth of potential health sector exports over the coming years.  This is less than 0.03% of the total value of what Healthcare UK has identified the UK could potentially sell – there are qualified leads of £133m for Brazil, £123m for China and even £5.3bn for smaller countries such as Libya.

So the UK hasn’t quite determined what to sell to India.

From the Indian side, there is a recognition the Government of India has reduced bureaucracy, but legitimate projects are still taking too long.

Some others sectors have “single window” clearances, which mean international collaborators need to get all their relevant approvals through one channel only.  But this is not yet available for the health sector.

Industry forecasts predict that the biotech industry in India may grow by more than 30% a year until 2025 (double its rate of growth over the last decade).

The health market, the medical devices market, and pharma are all forecast to experience strong growth.  However, some of these figures are more aspirational than realistic.

Regulatory issues, an inability to access venture capital and the lack of an environment which encourages entrepreneurism inhibit such high growth.

So India wants to work with international partners, but there are some acute challenges.

The bioConclave, which took place in London on 20th April 2015, attempted to address some of these.  It aimed to maximise the opportunities for growth between the two countries from the smaller, innovative companies that currently find it difficult to find platforms to help them expand.

The feedback was terrific – companies that came from India found partners, distributors and potential investors in London, as well as in Leeds and Manchester where we took the companies thereafter.  Companies from the UK learnt about the hotbed of innovation in pockets in India.

And one leading Indian company actually made an announcement that may bring £1m of investment into the UK.

There is a huge potential in the UK-India relationship, but a long way to go to realise it still.

Smita has a background in biotechnology and has supported companies with market entry strategies and help find right partners for collaborations into emerging markets such as India and East Africa and vice versa.  She recently created an annual platform for health and life sciences collaborations between Indian and the UK.

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