Life sciences and healthcare

The diverse life sciences and healthcare hub in London is a rich, connected ecosystem, providing an unrivalled gateway to the rest of the UK and the wider international community.

London benefits from excellence and expertise within academia, industry and the National Health Service (NHS) and is a dynamic hub for spinouts, scaling companies and investment.

Venture capital investment into healthtech companies in London has grown 11.1 times since 2016, faster than in the Bay Area, New York and Boston.

Home to world-leading universities, hospitals and an expansive patient pool, the region is a growing engine room for translational and experimental medicine, with several National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centres sitting between academia and the NHS and three of England’s Academic Health Sciences Centres.

1. London

There is nowhere else in Europe that has the same concentration of leading universities and specialist research institutions, specialist hospitals, talent and access to finance as London. These factors make London a globally attractive destination for life science.” Dr Angela Kukula, CEO of MedCity and Director of Life Sciences for London & Partners.

  • London sits at the heart of the Cambridge, London and Oxford Golden Triangle within the greater south east of England, providing an outstanding entry point to the UK market, supported by MedCity, which provides a front door to the region’s life sciences capability.
  • There are 1,129 sites for life sciences companies in London, with industry spanning from advanced therapies to digital technologies and AI. The number of London-based life sciences companies has grown at 7.1% year-on-year on average since 2018, making it the highest area of growth in the UK. London-based life science company turnover has grown 5.8% year-on-year for the past five years [1].
  • In 2023, London received 42% of all UK investment, and in the past decade one in three of all biotech startups in Europe have been founded in the UK [2].

2. Ecosystem

London’s life sciences ecosystem is a vibrant hub of academic, clinical and industry collaboration; nurturing groundbreaking tech companies and attracting a presence of pharmaceutical giants from across the world.

  • More than 180 accelerators and incubators can bring tech solutions to life in London, including Grow London Global, Entrepreneur First, MedTech SuperConnector and DigitalHealth.London. 
  • Three out of six UK-founded Unicorn Life Sciences companies were founded in London since 2020, with the UK producing more Unicorn companies than any other European country in the same period [3].
  • London-based R&D is on the rise, with an 8.4% YoY growth in the number of sites, and 14.1% YoY increase in employment on average for the past 5 years [4].
  • 65% of global top 20 pharma companies (according to 2023 revenue) have offices in London, and all 20 have offices within 1 hour of London [5].
  • Flagship Pioneering, the company behind Moderna, has selected London for their first location outside the US, to become Flagship’s latest destination for start-ups and ventures; a statement of their confidence in the UK life sciences sector and investment environment [6].

3. A gateway to academic excellence and talent

London is a beacon of academic excellence, boasting world-renowned institutions and top-ranked universities; the city’s allure for talent is accentuated by its international research community, diverse workforce, and thriving cosmopolitan lifestyle.

  • London is a base for world-renowned academic excellence, providing sought-after depth and breadth of knowledge. The city is home to five medical schools, three dental schools and institutions including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and The Institute of Cancer Research.  
  • 5 of 16 UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funded Centres for Doctoral Training in AI and Healthcare are in London [7]
  • UCL, Imperial College London, King’s College London and QMUL are in the top 100 universities for life sciences and medicine globally [8].
  • 82% of professionals employed in scientific & technical activities are educated to degree level or above, vs. 66% elsewhere in the UK [9].  
  • London is an international research community, with 31.7% of this workforce being non-British or dual nationals, and 51% of all non-British or dual nationals employed in scientific & technical activities are employed in London [10].  
  • 9.4% of the London population are students in full time education, vs. 7.7% in the rest of the UK.  

4. A powerhouse for research and development

Advances in R&D in London are supported by a network of clinical institutions, innovation districts, and regulatory bodies, enabling a network for collaboration and knowledge sharing to bring better drugs to patients efficiently.

  • The city is home to a diverse community of 8.3 million patients, a third of whom were born outside of the UK, and the NHS has access to diverse cradle-to-grave population data of 65M+ people, with longitudinal datasets developed over decades. 
  • London has a developing landscape for innovation support and infrastructure, including the life sciences innovation districts at the King’s Cross Knowledge Quarter, Imperial's White City campus, the London Cancer Hub, Whitechapel and others. The city also enables proximity to regulators and policy makers at the MHRA, the CQC, and the NHS.
  • London has maintained the highest rate of growth in R&D sites and R&D employment in the UK for the past 5 years, at 8.4% and 14.1% YoY growth respectively. 

5. Digital health

London’s rapidly growing Digital Health community is supported by dedicated programmes and collaborative networks at leading institutions, driving transformative research to address real-world challenges and advance adoption in the Digital Health sector.
  • London is home to nearly 30% of all Digital Health companies in the UK, leading this booming sector which has grown 167% in turnover since 2012, which continues to grow at an average of 14.5% per year [11].  
  • DHLA (Digital health London accelerator) is a year-long programme, designed to support digital health companies with products or services that could solve challenges facing the NHS. 
  • The UCL Institute of Digital Health brings together world-class researchers from the university to deliver transformational interdisciplinary research across the health sciences, human sciences and data sciences. 
  • King’s College London Digital Health Network fosters collaboration across departments, schools and faculties, allowing for a greater range of unique research on the social, ethical, and political aspects of digital health that addresses real-world problems. 
  • Queen Mary University London’s Digital Environment Research Institute focuses on AI for drug discovery, is a member of The Turing University Networks, and with close links to the Turing Institue hosts the Innovative Digital Health Collaboration Workshop. 
  • The Turing Institute is partnered with leading universities, research institutes, and pharmaceutical companies such as Roche, Alzheimer’s Research UK, and the NIHR, to advance the ‘Transformation of health’, Turing’s next grand challenge. 
  • The Imperial College Healthcare Trust has launched a new digital collaboration space to boost health data-enabled research, providing state-of-the-art management and analysis of health data collected across Imperial College’s 5 hospitals and the wider North West London ICS on a complimentary data set from a population of 2.4M people. The facility fosters collaboration between clinicians, academics, data scientists, industry partners and the local community.

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About MedCity

MedCity is part of the London & Partners family. It facilitates and supports the identification and utilisation of opportunities within London's life sciences and healthcare landscape, and uses networking and research and development to generate innovation.

MedCity fosters collaborations between biotech, medtech and pharma companies and the capital’s life sciences ecosystem to supercharge innovation, drive inward investment and build skills and talent across the sector in the UK. 

Working in close partnership with London’s world-leading universities and national ecosystem stakeholders, MedCity creates powerful networks and partnerships to fast-track R&D, with a specialist focus on diagnostics and cell and gene therapy.

As life science experts, MedCity also facilitates the development of life science space in London to support the growth of research intensive businesses.

Contact London & Partners' Life Sciences team

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