A vision for non-animal technologies in the UK

A strategic roadmap for non-animal technologies was published in October 2015, supporting industry, research councils, academia and government in establishing a world leading non-animal technologies sector in the UK. The roadmap is a consensus of the UK bioscience community and sets out the long term vision for non-animal technologies and the key opportunities and gaps to address to deliver a thriving non-animal technologies sector.


Strategic themes in non-animal technologies

Six interconnected strategic themes are described in the roadmap. 

  • Skills - A broad range of skills is required to support innovation in NATs, and funding to support capacity building is critical. 
  • Collaboration and networks - Fostering collaborations across sectors and disciplines nationally and internationally is pivotal to maintaining momentum and establishing a community to support delivery of the NATs vision.
  • Technology development - Multiple organ systems are studied in order to accurately assess the toxicity and efficacy of products and this complexity will need to be reflected in the development of NATs. 
  • Commercialisation and uptake - The successful development of NATs will only have economic impact if the businesses they serve in the pharmaceutical, veterinary, chemical, agrichemical and consumer products sectors are ready and equipped to adapt and implement them into their product development pipelines. 
  • Regulatory engagement - there is the potential for NATs to inform regulatory submissions for chemicals and pharmaceuticals and ultimately to replace some of the traditional tests. 
  • International factors and landscape - Health, personal care, and agriculture are global industries and companies offering better products or services based on NATs will have a worldwide market. 



The roadmap includes the following recommendations:

  • Support capacity building in multidisciplinary science and technology development to ensure that the UK has the right skills base to drive NATs for company decisionmaking and risk assessments.
  • Foster collaborations between industry, the SME sector and academia to improve understanding of cross-sector requirements and bottlenecks in the development and deployment of NATs.
  • Support collaborative working to ensure that the most promising technologies are identified, developed, validated and integrated into the product pipeline with minimum risk for those involved.
  • Maintain investment in underpinning basic research and business-led technology development in NATs.
  • Widen engagement in the development of NATs to include disciplines, expertise and individuals not previously involved in toxicology and efficacy testing.
  • Build capacity and confidence in NATs and accelerate the path to market by supporting the development of NATs with powerful predictive ability and bridging the gap between development, proof of concept and scale-up.
  • Ensure early engagement of regulators in the development and use of NATs to expedite a path to regulatory acceptance.
  • Analyse emerging international trends and activities to identify collaborators, avoid duplication and ensure that the UK is well positioned to influence global developments.
  • Promote the UK NATs industry globally to maximise economic growth.
  • Establish a strategic advisory board, with academic and industrial members, to provide advice and to help drive forward the roadmap in the UK


Implementing the recommendations

Application of these recommendations will bring economic growth, improved products and increased societal impact for the UK through the development and commercialization of improved test systems that are more predictive than current systems.

Some of the recommendations made by the roadmap have already been put in place, including this Special Interest Group (NAT SIG) and the first two rounds of NATs funding to support feasibility studies and larger collaborative research and development projects

Other recommendations build on existing frameworks and funding opportunities, for instance the NC3Rs funding schemes, and the CRACK IT open innovation programme.

Read the NATs Roadmap

Example non-animal technologies

  • Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells
  • Human tissue
  • In vitro culture - e.g. 3D organ on a chip, organoids
  • Stratified medicine
  • 3D printing
  • In silico capabilities, including big data, high performance computing, etc.
  • Biomarkers - increasing 'omics capability

For examples of how non-animal technologies are being applied visit the NAT Feasibility Study funding page.

If you would like to know more about the NAT programme, or would like to contribute to the SIG platform, please contact us.

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