Britain has a proud history of innovation. In the field of medicine and the life sciences, we’ve brought the world penicillin, unravelled the mystery of DNA, sequenced the human genome and developed MRI scanning. UK scientists have been awarded more than 70 Nobel Prizes. Most recently, in 2012, Cambridge Professor John Gurdon was recognised by the Nobel committee for his stem cell research. With four of the world’s top ten universities, the highest ranking for medical research productivity in the G8 and more clinical trials in progress than in any other European country, it shouldn’t be too long before the UK produces another Nobel laureate – even without resorting to Professor Gurdon’s ground-breaking cloning techniques.
Today, the UK and most of its EU partners signed an agreement to establish a Unified Patent Court. Once up and running in 2015, the Unified Patent Court will allow businesses to protect their innovations across all participating member states through a single patent application. This is good news for all of us: it should save British and other European businesses up to £20,000 per patent in translation costs alone. And if it comes to defending their innovation, they need take their case through only one court.
It’s particularly good news for Britain because London is one of three key locations for the court, alongside Paris and Munich. The London court will focus on pharmaceuticals and the life sciences, playing to our strengths in these areas: there were over 7000 pharmaceutical patent applications in the UK between 2006 and 2011. The PM secured the deal for London at an EU Summit last year.
The Unified Patent Court is precisely the kind of thing we want to see delivered through Europe. It will cut costs for British and European businesses, helping them take on the global competition. And it will promote the innovation that will drive economic growth. It’s also a flexible arrangement: Britain is playing a leading role, but some of our European partners have chosen not to participate for the moment. In short, it’s common sense all round.