The end of the UK's Eastern Region Biotechnology Initiative (Erbi) marks the beginning of a new era, writes Harriet Fear, former chief executive of Erbi

The end of the UK’s Eastern Region Biotechnology Initiative (Erbi) marks the beginning of a new era, writes Harriet Fear, former chief executive of Erbi


The UK’s Eastern Region Biotechnology Initiative (Erbi), the not-for-profit membership company for international life science and healthcare businesses, is no more. It has gone the same way as the London Biotechnology Network (LBN). But what we have in their place is something far greater than the sum of their parts. 

Erbi and LBN merged in April this year, and have just unveiled a new name and brand identity - One Nucleus - at the opening of their June conference at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK.

One Nucleus is a new name for a new era, representing one network for biotech, pharma, medical device and diagnostic businesses. 

One Nucleus also speaks to the unification of the Cambridge and London networks. This strong, international brand supports One Nucleus’s commitment to supplying high-value services to its 750 members.

Why merge? 

One Nucleus is the business catalyst for life sciences. We’d outgrown Erbi and needed a new name to match our reality as a global force in life science and healthcare. We intend to use this new identity as a springboard to new and improved benefits for our members, building on the combined strength of our Cambridge and London membership. 

It was clear that we were no longer the Eastern Region Biotechnology Initiative. Our membership isn’t restricted to the Eastern region, neither is it limited to biotech - member companies come from the wider life science and healthcare sector - and we ceased to be a government initiative when we became a limited company in 2000. We have grown way beyond our original position as a government-funded support mechanism for the nascent Cambridge biotech scene. The industry has grown and matured, and so have we. 

Last year, we surveyed our members on a range of issues - the services we offer, our expansion into the wider life science and healthcare sector and our growth beyond the east of England region - the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. In light of the changes, we also asked if we should consider a new name to better reflect what we are and plan to be. Again, the vast majority supported this. 

With a remit from our members for change, we set about work on creation of a new brand that would represent our new focus and hint at the partnerships we have developed (especially with other UK regions and US networks). 

The need for the new brand was drawn into sharp focus when, part way into the project, we began discussions with LBN about a merger - an initiative driven by requests from members of both organisations. It was clear that neither Erbi nor LBN would be fit for purpose as the name for the merged entity, cementing our decision to create a new brand. 

The merger of Erbi and LBN into One Nucleus has created a cluster of international size, relevance and visibility, providing a significantly larger pool of companies to support business-to-business interaction. A single membership now provides discounted entry to conferences and events, including annual conferences and network meetings in Cambridge and London. It also builds economies of scale, enabling expansion of our group purchasing scheme that was already saving millions of pounds for members annually (?2.5 million in 2008). The new One Nucleus website provides a single source of information for the newly enlarged network combining Erbi’s 350 members with LBN’s 400. 

The creation of One Nucleus recognises that London and Cambridge are not two clusters, but one ’super cluster’ of global significance. The newly merged network represents a powerhouse of commercial, clinical and academic interests with at least 60 per cent of the UK’s life science industry base, four of the UK’s five Academic Health Science Centres and three of the world’s top six universities. 

The Cambridge-London super cluster now has a seat at the top table with heavy hitting US clusters, such as Massachusetts, southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Tony Jones, formerly LBN’s director, has joined One Nucleus’s senior management team as director of business development. One Nucleus has offices in Cambridge and London. 

Why One Nucleus? 

One - a single network for Cambridge and London, a single network for biotech, pharma, medical device and diagnostic businesses. 

Nucleus - the centre of network activity, the hub, the driver of growth.

Harriet Fear is chief executive of One Nucleus