We deliver a successful Life Sciences Week

We were delighted to host our first Life Sciences Week, which featured support and advice for businesses looking to enter or build their business in markets including China, Japan, Korea and the Middle East’s Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

It was held in collaboration with the Association of British HealthTech Industries (ABHI), Department for International Trade (DIT) China, Intralink (International business development consultants) and BCB (experts in developing life-saving and protective equipment). You can see the recordings, including slide decks of all the sessions, here.

One important takeaway from the week was that while life sciences businesses continue to face significant challenges from coronavirus and Brexit, the Middle and Far East offer exciting opportunities that many businesses are well-placed to pursue. We look forward to working with companies to help them do exactly that.

In the meantime, one question that cropped up frequently concerns how principal suppliers can discover exactly who their distributors are selling their products to. This is crucial as the principal needs to know who is buying the product, where repeat orders might come from and who the key opinion leaders are who might be useful for product development. However, distributors worry that the principal will eventually move to a model that by-passes them. A solution is to ‘pay’ for the sales-out data. This might amount to 1-5% of the invoice value from the principal to the distributor if agreed quarterly sales targets are met. This provides the principal with market information while also rewarding the distributor financially, strengthening the relationship.

Get ready for Brexit transition

UK pharmaceuticals companies currently secure centralised approval from the European Union (EU) for their products. But this will change from 1 January 2021, when the UK’s post-Brexit transition agreement with the EU comes to an end. After that date the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will become the UK’s sole regulator of medicines and medical devices. It will perform many functions currently dealt with at EU level.

The MHRA expects data to be submitted to it with one year of the 1 January transition date. More detail is available here, but we can help by referring companies to expert regulatory advisers in our ecosystem company network.

Manufacturing sector news

The latest data from the Purchasing Managers Index for the manufacturing industry, released on 2 November, shows the index slipping from 54.1 to 53.7. This suggests a slower, but still positive, rate of growth in the sector.

The data is in line with the recent CBI Industrial Trends Survey for the third quarter of 2020, which suggested manufacturing activity remains on a gradual path to a modest recovery. In the CBI survey, manufacturers reported that their output volumes were, on average, down 15% on more normal times because of the coronavirus crisis. They expect output to grow, although at a moderate rate, with new orders and recruitment remaining broadly flat.

More challenges lie ahead. Our recent Trade Barometer report suggested manufacturers see bureaucracy as their biggest challenge when trading in international markets and this anxiety persists as we prepare for the end of the post-Brexit transition period on 31 December. Manufacturers (like all businesses) need to take action now to be ready. Useful guidance is available from the Government and MakeUK. We can also provide support, including:

  • detailed guidance on all the key areas of regulatory compliance businesses should consider as they prepare for transition
  • detailed customs training in all key aspects of international trade
  • guidance on what government support could be available for your business
  • a company who can handle all of your customs documentation requirements, including completion of documents and submission onto the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) or Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight Service (CHIEF) platform.

Embracing digital

A new report from MakeUK and Sage reveals UK manufacturers took rapid and significant steps towards digitalisation when the pandemic struck, with nearly half adopting digital working practices within two weeks of lockdown. Some 94% of companies said staff were able to successfully work from home after just a fortnight of planning and installation. That’s impressive in industries often associated with manual tasks and a high proportion of production-based work.

The report found 9 in 10 manufacturers had benefited from adopting new digital technologies during the crisis, with 8 in 10 expecting to continue adopting new working practices. A quarter said these new technologies had increased productivity, with 12% pointing to increased production.

This acceleration will need to continue as manufacturing recovers. We can support investment in these key technologies, and we’re working with BDO (the accountancy and business advisory firm) to launch a new research and development tax credits funding product. This will help businesses to take advantage of the tax incentives available to firms that pursue innovation.

To discuss how we can help your business please contact: ccbsectorinsights@santander.co.uk

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