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The UK’s Fastest-Growing Life Sciences Companies | 2020


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The life sciences sector is comprised of companies that develop pharmaceuticals, research tools, and reagents based around the scientific research of living organisms.

It’s a very broad sector, often used to encompass biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and biomedical technologies. More recently, the life sciences have become increasingly intertwined with AI. Some of the most specialised and advanced UK AI companies focus on drug discovery and medtech.

From the discovery of penicillin in 1928 to the structure of DNA in the 1950s, the United Kingdom has long been a global leader and innovator of the life sciences industry. With an uncertain political and economic road ahead, the British government has committed to supporting the sector through its life sciences Sector Deal to maintain this world-class position.  

We’ve outlined the UK life sciences ecosystem below. Read on to discover the top 10 best-funded companies, the overall amount raised by the industry, the biggest investors, and more.

Top 10 UK life sciences companies by total funding received

Company Total funding received
Oxford Nanopore
Benevolent AI
Kuur Therapeutics
Artios Pharma
COMPASS Pathways

Oxford Nanopore,  which develops DNA/RNA sequencing technology, leads the sector by a significant margin of funds raised. Companies that focus on drug development, biotechnology, and biopharmaceutical R&D are heavily featured in the above top 10 list. 

UK companies in the Life Sciences sector

There are 1119 companies in the life sciences sector overall. Out of 1119, 858  are ambitious, private UK companies actively operating in the sector. There are 32 zombie companies out of that 858. 

Overall, 137 companies have exited the market, either through an IPO or an acquisition, and 124 are no longer trading.

The graph below visualises the ecosystem by stage of evolution. For a more in-depth view of how we classify companies’ evolution, see here.

Life Sciences Companies by Stage of Evolution:

Key events

On our platform, you can filter your search by many variables. For this article, we’ve included all stages of evolution in our statistics—seed, venture, growth, established, dead, and exited—to paint a wide, comprehensive picture of the life sciences high-growth space.

You can zero in on the most crucial and relevant areas to you, filtering by a certain location, stage, or other qualifier. But as for the overall ecosystem…


  • 64% of UK life sciences companies have used equity investment to grow
  • 54% have received innovation grants, with 44% receiving grants over £100k 
  • 32% have been spun-out from academic institutions—that’s ten times the rate across all sectors. 
  • Only 9% have achieved  20% scaleup status as defined by OECD. This is half the rate across all sectors, demonstrating that life sciences companies tend to delay revenue growth in favour of developing strong IP and product
Total number of life sciences Companies
Received equity investment
received a large (>£100k) innovation grant​
Spun-out from an Academic institution
achieved 20% Scaleup status

More free insights! Click here if you’d like to understand the impact of COVID-19 on life sciences companies in the UK.

Fundraisings into the Life Sciences

The average amount raised by Life Sciences companies (£3.53m) is significantly higher than the average across all sectors (£1.97m). This is indicative of the fact that these companies require more capital and resources for research and development than other venture-backed businesses. 

The statistics below include both announced and unannounced fundraising (69% of equity funding rounds are never announced to the public). 

Number of deals

Total amount raised

£ b

Average amount raised

£ m

Average pre-money valuation

£ m

Take a look at our annual equity investment report, The Deal, for a more in-depth analysis of fundraising across all sectors in the UK.

Top investors into Life Sciences by deal numbers

Scottish Enterprise
Touchstone Innovations
Development Bank of Wales
IP Group

All this data comes from the Beauhurst platform

All of the insights and analysis shared today were taken from Beauhurst in moments.

You can understand, track, and analyse the UK’s high-growth companies—30,000 ambitious startups, all on one platform.

With Beauhurst you’ll…

    • Find ideal partners for tech and knowledge transfer 
    • Hone in on high-growth companies before others can
    • Approach at the right time with our near real-time updates 
    • Create collections to monitor leads. We alert you if anything changes or new companies pop up, taking the legwork out of business development. 

So, how about a tailored demo?

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