The UK’s life sciences sector contributes £43.3billion in GVA as it enters a new supercharged era of innovation and breakthrough science

19 Oct 2023

  • The UK’s life sciences sector contributed a total of £43.3billion in GVA with pharmaceutical manufacturing responsible for the majority - £19.2 billion in total - according to PwC analysis.

  • PwC’s UK Life Sciences Future50 celebrates UK companies innovating to solve the hardest problems in human health through biopharmaceuticals, AI, digital health, diagnostics and devices.

  • Boosting late-stage funding and infrastructure capacity are critical steps in achieving the UK’s ambition to be a life sciences superpower.

The UK’s life sciences sector contributed £43.3billion to the UK economy in 2021 through production of goods and services, with pharmaceutical manufacturing responsible for a majority of £19.2 billion. This is according to PwC’s latest analysis in its Life Sciences Future50 report celebrating 50 UK companies innovating to solve the hardest problems in human health and science.

The sector has seen strong growth since before the pandemic in 2019, with 17.6% growth from £36.9billion in gross value added (GVA) in two years (8.5% per annum). In 2021, pharmaceutical manufacturing was responsible for the majority of the sector’s GVA contribution - £19.2 billion in total - followed by medical technology manufacturing - £18.4billion - and life sciences research was responsible for £5.7billion. The sector also supported 646,000 jobs in the UK in 2021 - an increase from 585,000 in 2019. 

PwC’s Life Sciences Future50 report identifies a sample of companies demonstrating how the UK’s world-leading life sciences sector is harnessing the power of biotherapeutics, digital health, AI and devices to accelerate the pace of research - signaling a significant step change in the level of breakthrough science delivering better patient outcomes.

Stephen Aherne, pharmaceuticals and life sciences leader at PwC, said: 

“The UK and its academic powerhouses have created a world-leading ecosystem for the life sciences sector. Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic shone a spotlight on the scientific capabilities of the UK, the sector’s public market performance since has flattered to deceive. It is critical that we boost the availability of late-stage funding and infrastructure capacity to enable these companies to flourish and deliver the full medical and economic benefits. 

“The life sciences sector is not a short-term play, and the results of today’s endeavors must be judged not in a quarter but in the transformative patient outcomes and drug discovery for generations to come.” 

Revolutionising healthcare delivery and drug discovery

Harnessing data, technology and insights across the sector and collaborating with healthcare providers, is helping to benefit patients and healthcare systems globally. The Future50 sample shows companies such as CMR Surgical and Proximie, improving patient access to and patient outcomes from surgical procedures through the use of technology. For example, CMR is helping make robotic-assisted surgery more accessible and efficient, via its surgical robotics platform and digital ecosystem providing data and insights to hospitals and surgeons. 

The UK’s talent in AI and machine learning is being harnessed by companies such as Brainomix, Microbiotica and Peptone, which are using machine learning to power drug discovery or develop enhanced diagnostics. 

Reaching hard to reach drug targets

Over half of the Future50 companies are within the therapeutics sub-sector. Of the 32 drug developers in the report, five are developing cell and gene therapies, 13 are pursuing small molecules and 13 are developing biologics. Some companies are leveraging naturally occurring molecules to tackle the problem of intractable drug targets - helping patients with diseases such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, dementia and cancer. For example, Maxion’s 'KnotBody' technology was developed to fuse the benefits of antibodies (potency, selectivity, half-life) with the protein-modulating ability of knottins (a naturally occurring peptide) to target currently untreatable or poorly treated diseases. 

Regional growth and opportunities

The Future 50 shows a significant concentration of companies in the Golden Triangle of Oxford - Cambridge - London, with 18 based in Cambridge, 15 in London and 11 in Oxford, with many of the UK’s leading academic institutions in this area. However, there is an opportunity to unlock the potential of emerging hubs such as Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh. Seven companies are located outside the Golden Triangle, with three in Edinburgh and one in each of Manchester, Bristol, Coventry and Belfast. 

While the UK is exceptionally strong in early-stage development and funding, there are barriers to delivering the full medical and economic benefits for the sector. PwC’s report highlights the need to boost late-stage funding and infrastructure capacity for the UK to realise its global superpower ambitions. 

George Freeman MP, Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said:

“Our £94 billion life sciences sector is critical to our plans to grow the economy, improve public health and cement the UK’s status as a science superpower. These 50 companies exemplify how the sector delivers highly-skilled jobs and drives investment into clusters right across the country, from Bristol to Belfast.”


Notes to Editors: 


The 50 companies are selected on their impact potential (the problem the company is trying to solve), breakthrough science and innovation (what they are doing to solve it), differentiation (how they are doing it) and maturity (where they are on their journey). This has been the result of a rigorous research process starting with the identification of 500+ UK-based innovative life sciences companies with the potential to deliver breakthrough solutions, from addressing significant unmet needs to improving access to advanced technologies in research, clinical and healthcare settings. 

The list is neither exhaustive nor exclusive but is intended to serve as an illustration of the breadth and depth of cutting edge science and innovation developed by UK companies, with the potential to deliver significant impact to patients, researchers and healthcare systems globally. We selected the final UK Life Sciences Future50 based on the composite scoring along the assessment framework and also undertook a cross-review to ensure representation from multiple sub-sectors and therapeutic areas. 

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