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Are we daring to fail spectacularly?

CPIA report cover 2018Yvette Cleland comments on the latest Clinical Professionals Industry Analytics report, 2017 in review:

“In a landscape of profound uncertainty, last year saw record levels of investment in the UK life sciences industry. With £2.4 BN raised in IPO’s and further offerings, 2017 saw a 20% increase in investment when compared to 2016.

So, are we in a situation with Brexit that only those who dare to fail spectacularly, can achieve greatly? Or with higher rates of investment in 2017 (compared to 2016) despite the backdrop and full knowledge of Brexit, we just don’t know what the future holds? Do we ever know that?

As an industry we are predisposed to constant change, that is the nature of the life sciences beast.  The £64 BN life sciences industry in the UK is one of our leading lights as a country. In many ways we are an international benchmark for success, and yet, as a nation we do always see our world through a prism of negativity. Remain or leave, much of our economic destiny is now clustered in life sciences. I guess we can either talk ourselves up, and focus on a future that we have to make work, or we can continue to mourn our fate, and make that an indicator of our future.

As a result, it is a confusing picture all round, because indicators and facts demonstrate investment increasing 2016 versus 2017 and therefore the requirement to identify skilled labour to fill newly created positions. Overall the total life sciences staffing market showed a 5.2% growth in vacancies with a noted increase in scientific roles at 10% year on year.

If you segment the rise in new roles down by regions, not surprisingly the Oxford & Cambridge hubs, of which 98% are SME and 30% founded in the last 5 years, we see a 42% rise in vacancies within scientific research roles within this cluster. Oxford specifically saw an overall increase of 51% of vacancies versus 2016. The industry however continues to be concentrated in the South East with 72% of all available roles being advertised there.

However, it could be said the North is fighting back. After the relocation of Astra Zeneca (AZ) away from Alderley Edge a new Biotech hub has grown up at AZ’s old site. Edinburgh’s BioQuarter is emerging as a leading EU destination and has seen a 20% increase in available roles 2016 versus 2017. As these biohubs develop across the UK we are observing 20% of all R&D vacancies clustered into the biotech industry.

AstraZeneca took GSK’s crown as number one pharma company for posted vacancies in 2017. GSK in fact saw a drop in overall vacancies of circa 49%, this could be attributed to the sale of Horlicks and anticipated layoffs  including the decision to not open a factory in Cumbria resulting in the loss of 320 jobs. In fact four of the top twenty pharma businesses saw a significant reduction in hiring last year.

So, as we see a decline in hiring in some prominent global players, our growing Biotech hubs and Med tech industry influence an overall increase in hiring alongside a growth shift in hires across Contract Research Organisations (CRO’s) as well. The future simply depends on what we do today. After decades of restructuring and transformation in industry in an attempt to respond to rapidly changing external environments, we can all appreciate that change fatigue is at heightened levels. As digital and mobile technologies change the relationships between physicians and patients, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning continue to disrupt the industry, surely Brexit is just another change, and dare we see an opportunity for us all?”

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