Cardiff - A world leading city for life sciences.
Just a few years ago Cardiff would not have been considered a world leading location for life sciences. However, a combination of the support of the Welsh Government to match the vision and drive of one of the sector’s leading investors and serial entrepreneurs in Sir Chris Evans, has put the capital at the forefront of a new strategy which over the next few years will see hundreds of millions of pounds invested into firms to support the commercialisation of ground breaking products. It will also bring high-growth firms and world leading academic research into Wales from around the world.
The new £100m Wales Life Sciences Fund (WLSF), which has already made its first investments, is being managed by Arthurian Life Sciences, chaired by Port Talbot-born Sir Chris. The Welsh Life Sciences Hub, which will be at the heart of the support ecosystem to the sector, will be located in Cardiff Bay.
Among the early investments include a near £13m Welsh Government grant support package and equity investment from Arthurian into Alternative Investment Market listed stem cell regenerative therapy business ReNeuron. The investment will see it relocating from Surrey to South Wales as it looks to bring its portfolio of stem cell medicines to market – with a new manufacturing facility in the region and a corporate headquarters in Cardiff.
Sir Chris, a seemingly unstoppable force, is confident that the strategy will position Wales to catch the lucrative wave of commercialisation offered by exciting developments in the life sciences sector – with equity investments and targeted support for companies ranging from those in biotech and life sciences to medical devices and pharma.
On the fund itself Sir Chris is certainly thinking bigger and long-term, he said: “We launched the WLSF with an initial £100m target size so that it could make a meaningful impact for Wales.
“However, in order to be taken really seriously on the international scene, the Welsh life sciences sector must have at its core at least a £200m fund. This will give us the critical mass investment platform we need to lure high quality life sciences companies into Wales.”
The fund will also look to bring in co-investors on deals, including financial institutions with very much a strategy of backing firms based in Wales such as Fusion IP and Finance Wales.
On the hub, where Sir Chris will spend much of his time, he said: “It will be the most interesting and unique life sciences initiative ever seen in Wales. That’s why it’s incredibly exciting.
“We have never given the Welsh life sciences sector a proper home – a real focal point for people to get together, network, exchange ideas and facilitate transactions within the sector.”
As well as backing indigenous businesses the fund will bring firms and academics to Wales, including those from overseas. Many will be based in Cardiff.
So how much does Sir Chris think they will enjoy living and working in the capital?
He said: “We are counting a lot on the continued evolution of Cardiff as an extremely attractive city to work and live in. We are already beginning to show people around and they have all been impressed.”
Welsh universities, and in particular Cardiff University, will have a key role in driving the life sciences strategy forward in Wales.
Sir Chris said: “Cardiff and Swansea account for over 90% of all that happens in life sciences in Wales.
“Cardiff has a major international presence and academic output because of its scale and quality.“
And for any life sciences firm considering moving to Cardiff, whether from Cambridge or California, Sir Chris has this compelling message: “Wales now has a serious international life sciences vision and strategy – it is not just playing at it we really mean business!
“The Welsh Government, universities, businesses and investors are all stepping up to the plate now to deliver on this vision.
“Wales is getting noticed at last and we intend to become a real international player on the life sciences scene. We now have a genuine life sciences fund, an excellent grant and loans support system and some attractive infrastructure to support life sciences businesses. It can all be done in and around Cardiff… so come on down!”