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ICT Strategy for Life Sciences Sector in Wales

The UK Life Science sector is going from strength to strength. The industry is growing faster than the economy as a whole [1] and is a key source of high-skill, high-tech jobs. This growth is not just restricted to companies based in England. Wales’ Life Science sector has grown over 19 per cent in the last three years and boasts over 300 active businesses, employing over 15,000 people and contributing £1.3bn to the Welsh economy annually. GE Healthcare in Cardiff is home to the company's international centre for groundbreaking work in stem cell technologies and BTG, the UK's biggest biotechnology group, is based in mid-west Wales.

Given the sector’s importance, the Welsh Government has commissioned AP Benson to develop an evidence base for a targeted ICT strategy in order to keep Welsh-based businesses competitive in the global market.

Advances in information technology, materials, imaging, nanotechnology, optics and quantum physics, coupled with advances in computing, modelling and simulation, have already transformed physical science.[2] These same tools and techniques, as well as the advances in computer processing power and memory storage, are now beginning to transform life sciences. This innovation is reflected in the emergence of new disciplines such as bioinformatics, computational biology and systems biology.

This convergence of digital and healthcare technologies presents Welsh business with a great opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to continuing innovation. For example, Wales’High Performance Computing (HPC) capacity can play a significant part supporting growth in this sector, in areas such as gene and protein sequencing and mass data interrogation.

In other disciplines, producers and manufacturers of products need to adequately exploit technologies such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tools to remain competitive. With much of the sector’s value being contained within its intellectual property, trust, security and systems resilience are vitally important factors to address.

Strategic exploitation of ICT is critical if firms are to remain competitive through innovative delivery of products, services and processes. Many companies operating in the sector tend to be small and run by experts in specific academic fields. There is often limited capacity or resource to employ ICT experts to boost use of ICT and there is a recognised shortage in ICT skills as well as capacity. This can lead to an inability to strategically plan for the effective implementation of ICT to support growth as well as the ability to capitalise on emerging technologies, vital to maintaining competitive advantage.

AP Benson's Director, Dr Craig Livingstone, commented "Having worked with biological sciences companies on ICT exploitation and with my background as an IT specialist in life sciences R&D and corporate venturing, I understand the importance of and benefit gained through companies adopting new and emerging ICT systems and software.  We are delighted to have been selected by the Welsh Government to develop a sound evidence base to show how companies within the sector can derive value from investment in ICT and, as a result, gain competitive advantage."

AP Benson is a management and economic development consultancy with offices in Cardiff, London, Birmingham and Reading. Since the company's formation it has provided services to the public and private sector in a range of fields including developing business models, economic feasibility studies, project evaluation, business development and IT Transformation.

[1] BIS, Strategy for the Life Sciences
[2] MIT, The Convergence of the Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Engineering, 2011
Posted on 1st January 2013
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