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The Chancellor’s vision for innovation-driven growth needs an animal-free focus

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The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s 2023 Autumn Statement provided opportunities and incentives for the UK to become one of the world’s leaders in scientific innovation. He rightly celebrated the UK Life Sciences sector as a national success story and one of our most innovative industries, but a key part of the picture was missing. As a growth sector and a crucial element of any future proofed approach to science, human-relevant animal-free technologies were notable by their absence.

Jeremy Hunt confirmed additional funding for digital technology, green industries and life sciences in his statement on Wednesday afternoon.

At the heart of this must be a renewed commitment to ending the use of animals in scientific research, following the government’s announcement in May that it was 'taking action to seek alternatives to animal testing'.

Already, the UK’s non-animal testing sector is expected to contribute £2.5 billion to our GDP by 2026 – an increase of 700% since 2017 - and at a time when forecasts for future economic growth have been revised downwards, this sector, encompassing investment in alternatives such as laboratory-grown tissues and mini-organs, organs-on-chips, and advanced computer simulations, must be supported.

Tax incentives for R&D organisations were also increased by the Chancellor. If a cruelty-free future built on animal free scientific innovation was seized as the urgent priority it should be then such mechanisms could be used to further encourage the development of non-animal methods, for example by targeting tax relief at businesses seeking to support and develop animal-free science.

Projects which promote the development and use of non-animal methods could also benefit from existing tax incentives which are tailored towards the Life Sciences sector if animal-free science was given the same benefits and funding as other Life Sciences businesses.

In addition, we would like HMRC to collect more and better data on the UK's R&D landscape to provide a clearer picture of the gaps and biases, which evidence suggests is strongly balanced in favour of outdated animal-based science.

There remains a chasm between what is possible through animal-free research and testing, and what is actually implemented. Inadequate funding is one of the major factors preventing the development of NAMs, along with a lack of trust in less familiar methods and a slow, complicated regulatory system.

Our Head of Public Affairs, Dylan Underhill, said: “R&D for innovation, particularly in the Life Sciences has rightly been recognised by the Chancellor as a priority industry for the country. To fulfil this potential, resource and attention must be directed at technologies of tomorrow which drive us towards the world we know the public wants to see and which animals in laboratories desperately need. Investment in failing animal experiments must be urgently redirected into humane and human-relevant medicine.

“More can and must be done to realise the full potential of of non-animal methods. Greater investment and more focus on animal-free science would help us all, save thousands of animals from suffering – and boost the UK economy.”

You can let your MP know how important ending animal testing in the UK is to you by joining our #PledgeCrueltyFree campaign. Through this you can send an email to your MP asking for them to support our call for a government-led plan to target zero tests on animals and the appointment of a Minister dedicated to the plan’s delivery across all government departments.