Chris Stirling, KPMG’s Global Head of Life Sciences, provides his thoughts on what the UK industry can learn from Switzerland.
“Despite sitting outside the EU and European Economic Area, Switzerland is where many global pharmaceuticals companies have placed their headquarters, regional hubs, research centres and production facilities. Switzerland shows us that British companies and research organisations can survive – indeed thrive – outside the EU.
“The decision to leave the EU brings with it significant complexity to the research, production, sale and distribution of medical products and drugs in the UK. It is likely to diminish Britain’s influence and reputation in the world as a centre of innovation and learning, all of which is likely to cost the country in both investment and jobs.
“The Swiss experience offers some important lessons. When it voted to curtail free movement of people, the EU revoked its access to science funding and collaboration. The EU did eventually allow Switzerland back into Horizon, but on much more restricted terms. Most notably, it barred non-EU states from owning the intellectual property of any research conducted with the EU. A similar deal for the UK would seriously diminish its value.
“The other major area of concern is regulation. Life sciences is heavily regulated, so the UK’s efforts to extract itself – at least in part – from that complex web will have a range of impacts on the cost of developing and distributing products. The UK is an attractive location for clinical trials for example. This may change if it’s no longer covered by the EU Clinical Trials Directive.
“However, there are reasons for optimism: the importance that Britain attaches to life sciences, its willingness to fight for the industry’s future and its strengths in clinical research will not disappear; it is up to the industry to act swiftly and make its voice heard across Whitehall and the negotiating halls of Brussels.”
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KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, operates from 22 offices across the UK with approximately 12,000 partners and staff. The UK firm recorded a revenue of £1.96 billion in the year ended September 2015. KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax, and Advisory services. It operates in 155 countries and has 174,000 professionals working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.