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Medics call for innovation strategy commitments

The government must make good its promise to create a single Health Research Agency in its forthcoming research and innovation strategy, the Academy of Medical Sciences has said.

In its written contribution to the government’s strategy, the academy said the government must implement the recommendations of its report, “A new pathway for regulation and governance of health research”, and create a single regulation body for all health and medical research in the UK.

The government’s Plan for Growth, published alongside the budget last March, supported the thrust of the report, but changes to regulation have not been included in the NHS Health and Social Care bill and will have to be introduced through separate legislation.

The academy said the government should provide a “clear and comprehensive vision” of the functions and governance of the Health Regulatory Authority and how it would work alongside other relevant bodies.

According to the AMS, the HRA would allow a central sign-off process for research approvals in all NHS Trusts, speeding up the process.

As well as dealing with clinical trials, the agency would also take on the regulatory powers of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority.

The AMS also suggested that the government’s strategy should do more to boost business R&D–for example, by creating relief incentives to encourage large companies to invest in small and innovative businesses.

It also called for the strategy to allow for the development of a system that would enable researchers to access both anonymous and identifiable patient information for research, while protecting patients and researchers.

Meanwhile, speaking at the Innovate 11 conference in London on 12 October, business secretary Vince Cable gave a flavour of what else the long-awaited strategy might include.

It would answer questions such as “How can the public sector become a more significant driver of innovation? How we can improve the mobility of smart people between business and the research base?”, Cable told the conference.

It would also address “what challenges–and indeed opportunities for international collaboration–arise from the rise of the BRIC countries and others,” he said.