Number of biotechnology companies grows by two thirds over three years

Biotech business population flourishes since 2016 as annual investment reaches £2.2bn in 2018

The number of UK biotechnology companies has boomed over the past three years, increasing by 65 per cent since 2016.

There are currently 3,456 companies in Britain involved in biotech research and development, compared with 2,095 three years ago.

On average, three new biotech companies are being incorporated each day, says biotech venture capitalist Downing Ventures. Almost two fifths of the UK’s biotech R&D companies only came into existence within the last three years.

Annual investment in UK biotech hit £2.2 billion in 2018, according to the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) and Informa Pharma Intelligence. This was 85 per cent up on the year before.

Venture capital has provided more than half (51 per cent) the funding from 2016-2018, up by nearly two thirds since 2016 to reach £1.1 billion.

And there has been a 40 per cent increase in publicly listed biotech R&D companies (plcs) from 30 to 42 over the same time period. IPOs contributed 20 per cent of the £2.2 billion raised in 2018, according to the BIA.

Top 10 UK locations for UK biotechnology R&D businesses, Q1 2019

LocationRanking Q1 2019Ranking Q1 2016Number of businesses, Q1 2019% of businesses, Q1 2019Increase in no. of businesses since Q1 2106
Source: Downing Ventures


London, Cambridge and Oxford have cemented their position as the “golden triangle” of biotech, accounting for over one third (34 per cent) of UK biotechnology firms.

Intriguingly, Nottingham is in fourth place ahead of conurbations such as Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham.

Will Brooks, investment director of Downing Ventures, said: “Britain’s biotech sector is going through unprecedented growth, with substantial investment supporting a myriad of start-ups tackling some of the world’s most pressing healthcare challenges. For investors, the sector presents the dual benefits of attractive potential returns alongside achieving a social purpose.”

Downing, which has £1 billion of funds under management, offers a specialist VCT fund offering investors exposure to biotech and specialist healthcare.

Jeremy Curnock Cook, managing director BioScience Managers, added: “While some industries are voicing concerns about the post-Brexit outlook, we’re excited by the opportunity for the UK to become a truly international hub for the healthcare sector with an attractive funding environment for companies from all over the world.”

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