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Lady in a laboratory
Image credit: IDPS, University of Bath

From medical equipment to virtual reality, our region is developing ways to improve people’s health on a global scale. The life sciences sector is growing rapidly here as we continue to support and invest in start-ups.

Employment in the sector

The Life Sciences sector has seen a rise in employment in our region. Recent start-up activity in Bristol has driven the share of synthetic biology companies in the South West to 6% (UK Synthetic Biology Start-up Survey 2019). This is the highest level in England outside of the Golden Triangle (London, Cambridge and Oxford).

The sector’s impact on employment rates in our region is substantial:

  • The South West currently employs 4% of the national life science workforce, with 2,700 employees across the region.
  • There are 221 med tech and 55 digital health companies in the West of England region. This is a 25% increase from over the past three years.
  • Over 4,000 people are employed in the Medical Technology and Digital Health sectors in the West of England.
  • Our region’s academic research base employs 1,560 people in Life Sciences.zAs our infrastructure and investments grows, the more companies and jobs we attract.

Our region is rapidly growing

2700 Life science employees across the region
276 Med tech and digital health companies
25 % increase in the last 3 years

Biotech and biomedical organisations

Bristol contributes to the world’s most detailed biomedical database. UK Biobank has agreed a £50 million contract with the NHS in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Our region is also home to the NIHR Bristol Bio-Medical Centre: one of just 20 in the UK.

There are numerous biotech and biomedical organisations active in our region:

  • Argonaute RNA specialises in creating medicines that harness the body’s natural cell mechanisms. This silences specific genes to help combat illness.
  • Rosa Biotech has developed a sensing platform designed to detect early signs of disease symptoms.
  • Ultraleap, based in Bristol City Centre, develops virtual touch using ultrasound. Alongside Vivid Vision, it is working on improving ‘lazy eye’ through virtual reality scenarios.
  • Micrima is a Bristol-based developer of a ground-breaking radio wave breast imaging system.
  • Cytoseek is a discovery-stage biotech company developing the next generation of cell therapies to treat cancer.
  • The West of England Academic Health Science Network (WEAHSN) helps deliver healthcare outcomes across the country. It enables patients to play a larger role in their own care and the care of others.

COVID-19

Our scientists and researchers are contributing to the fight against COVID-19. Bristol UNCovER group (UNiversity COVid Emergency Response) has pooled the resources, capacities and research efforts of specialists across multiple disciplines to tackle the pandemic.

Life science companies in the region are using Oracle for Research’s cloud computing capacity for the fight against COVID-19.

Scientists looking through microcopes

Life Science expertise

  • Science Creates that provides lab space, sector specific entrepreneurial support and has an in house EIS fund, these are Science Creates Incubators, Science Creates Services, and Science Creates Ventures respectively.
  • The physical facilities that were previously called Unit DX and Unit DY are now named Science Creates St Philips and Science Creates Old Market. They provide 30,000 square feet (ca. 2,787 m²) of Research and Development, office and events spaces, increasing the available commercial lab space in the wider Bristol area by 82%.

University Enterprise Zone at UWE Bristol

The University Enterprise Zone at UWE Bristol offers facilities to companies specialising in high-tech sectors. It’s supported by the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Currently residing in the Zone are:

  • Future Space, which supports businesses working in high-tech areas. Situated on the Frenchay campus.
  • Health Tech Hub, which focuses on advancing technology to enable independent living and reduce the length of hospital stays.

University partnerships

The University of Bristol also hosts The Max Planck Centre for Minimal Biology. This is the UK’s only science-focused Max Planck Institute.

BriSynBio, a BBSRC/EPSRC at the University of Bristol has helped grow the sector in our region, having nurtured the translation of research into four companies (Zentraxa, Cytoseek, Imophoron and Alpha Nanopore).