Direct Investments

A point of view – Dr Mark Payton

8th December, 2020

Dr Mark Payton, CEO, comments on the nature of crises and arising opportunities.

Periodically, as business owners and managers we may be confronted by two types of crises; episodic, being those short sharp shocks such as the dot.com boom and subsequent bust back in 2000, or the financial crisis of 2008, and then there is what is known as emergent crises, being long drawn-out challenges with no obvious end in sight. Today we find ourselves in the latter, an upheaval of such magnitude that these emergent crises can be typically exemplified by events such as world wars. The characteristics of such emergent events is the acceleration of discoveries, innovations and the rapid adoption of new behaviours with often permanent structural changes.

We all are experiencing this accelerated transition that is shaping our new normal. Ways in which we consume entertainment, interact with friends and colleagues, shop, manage our wellbeing and medical needs and how we access healthcare are all changing – in some instances, irrevocably. We are now just over ten months into this emergent crisis and already we have seen businesses, and indeed industries, pivoting to meet the challenges of our society’s metamorphosis. Arguably ten years of change has been witnessed in just ten months!

Perhaps this is best seen within Life Sciences, and in particular, the transformation of the vaccine development landscape. In the last 20 years you could count on one hand the number of novel vaccines developed through to market. Today, we have one approved in the UK (from start to completion in less than a year, versus the normal ten-year development time frame), a further two awaiting approval and another circa 10 in phase three clinical development (large scale efficacy trials in man, with three seeking regulatory approval). The majority of these are based on novel technologies not previously approved for prophylactic use. This remarkable acceleration of development brings with it the need for at-scale production of novel biologics; new ways of infectious disease diagnosis and management, all in parallel with vaccine efficacy evaluation. Mercia has supported many regional businesses operating within these sectors, as illustrated in the recent Life Sciences update.

At Mercia, we have felt first-hand this broad acceleration in new needs and behaviours through our investment activity. In the six months to 30 September 2020, we invested c.£42million into 81 businesses, a reflection of the impressive capability of the UK to innovate. But what is particularly poignant about these numbers is that 100% of our investment activity over this period was into businesses outside of London. It is apparent to us that an important part of the national economic recovery will be driven by regional businesses, or rather that great businesses are located in the regions.

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