From patent to patient
“The topsector plan rightly identifies SMEs as the engine of innovation and economic growth. So, for many years, have politicians. But if we are first in patent productivity, we barely break the top-20 in innovation and entrepreneurship. Moreover, we have the second lowest uptake of innovative medicines of major European countries. Only the UK does worse – and they are catching up. Time to put action to our words and ensure that more healthcare entrepreneurs become more successful and that SMEs are actively supported by the government.
In terms of funding, the signs are promising, if mixed. Innovation credits will be continued and increased both in size and duration in the coming years. A EUR 500 million fund for investment in innovative SMEs is welcome. The topsector plan’s idea of a fund-of-funds has been generally well received and, if realized, would be a big step in the right direction to support investments from the financial sector. The WBSO tax rebate for R&D labor cost was good in the past two years, but it is still uncertain how the new WBSO+ will play out. Proposed company tax relief is of no use to biotech SMEs because most have no profits from which to deduct their R&D investments – in other words, it does not fit Life Sciences & Health business models.
In terms of regulation, we have work to do. Some regional medical-ethical committees have proven very capable of striking the right balance between safety and speed; others require a change in mindset: from ‘how do I stay out of trouble’ to ‘how can we get this solution to patients’. Faster procedures give society earlier access to better and cheaper alternatives and SMEs improved access to partners and markets. The proposed preliminary approval and compensation of new drugs, too, would be a tremendous step forward, boosting new applications for patients in the Netherlands. These are prerequisites for establishing the Netherlands as the world’s proving ground for healthcare innovation – and that means both exports and foreign investment. That should be one of our first priorities.
In terms of sector collaboration, we have made great progress and must continue to do better. It is essential to position the Netherlands as the place for healthcare innovation. We need to mobilize some funds to ‘lubricate’ further cooperation, pay for joint initiatives such as sector promotion, market intelligence and monitoring, and continue what we started with in the Life Sciences & Health program.
We as a sector have a mission: to get patents out of universities and into the hands of entrepreneurs who use them to develop new solutions that quickly and safely make their way to patients. First in patents is not enough, we need to become first in market introduction and innovation uptake. That is the true measure of our success.”
- Secure funding for starting and growing enterprise
- Speed up regulatory procedures and make the Netherlands first in the uptake of new medicine
- Strengthen sector collaboration and positioning
Roland Lageveen was CEO of the Groningen-based Life Sciences & Health company IQ Corporation and part of the team that developed the Life Sciences & Health topsector plan. He passed away on 11 June 2012.