LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is the top European nation for biotechnology capital raised in the first half of 2014, a vindication of the government's strategy to encourage the life sciences through incentives including tax breaks.
The country raised a total of 734 million pounds ($1.18 billion) of bioscience innovation capital between January and June, against 483 million for the whole of 2013, making it the largest funding center in Europe.
Total European life sciences financing in the first half of 2014 has already surpassed the 2.1 billion pounds raised in 2013, according to a report by Britain's BioIndustry Association and consultancy EY.
The surge in funding is part of a wider rush into the risky biotech sector by global investors, following promising results with a series of new drugs, but Britain’s strong showing also reflects government actions to promote the sector.
This includes the introduction of a "patent box" tax break on investment in research and development that has been criticized by some for allowing companies to minimize taxation.
Treasury minister David Gauke, speaking at a biotech conference on Tuesday, denied the scheme encouraged inappropriate shifting of taxation by companies and said the scheme was designed to bring real activity to Britain.
"I refute any suggestion that the UK patent box facilitates profit shifting," he said.
(1 US dollar = 0.6225 British pound)
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Keith Weir)