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REC Life Sciences: Getting ahead of the game
REC Life Sciences: Getting ahead of the game
Policy & Sectors 05th Dec 2019

There is ongoing uncertainty around what impact Brexit will have on the labour market. But one area where there is clarity is the importance of the life sciences sector to the UK. This was the core message from the latest gathering of specialist recruiters held at LinkedIn HQ this month.

Life sciences are a UK-wide priority

The life sciences sector has been recognised as a top priority by the government, reflected in the life sciences flagship Industrial Strategy deal. Four of the world’s top six universities for research are based in the UK (Cambridge, Imperial College, Oxford and UCL), and the global life sciences industry is expected to reach >$2 trillion by 2023 (approximately $1.6 trillion today). The government have promised:

  • £85 million for genomics research capacity
  • 5 new centres in digital technology and data analytics
  • £146 million for medicines manufacturing
  • £86 million towards the Accelerated Access Review

This means there are plenty of opportunities in the life sciences sector right now. The priority for recruitment industry leaders is to attract, retain and develop great people in their own businesses. Finding people with a passion for the life sciences sector, as well as having the skills needed for recruiting is the ultimate differentiator! Speaking at the meeting, Chair of the group, and Managing Director of Hyper Recruitment Solutions, Ricky Martin highlighted the importance of not losing focus on what we do:

“The life sciences sector is a life-saving industry; at the end of the line there is always a patient who benefits from the work we do.”

But staffing challenges lie ahead….

Dr Tony Jones, CEO of One Nucleus, highlighted 5 key challenges for the industry to focus on:

  1. Pharma R&D restructuring
  2. Availability of venture capital for early stage biotechs
  3. Skills and Experience
  4. Clinical Research Infrastructure
  5. Science Funding

Looking beyond Brexit

The life science sectors will cumulatively require another 180,000 to 260,000 people by 2025. Currently, EU nationals comprise 14% of natural and social science professionals – including biochemists and chemical scientists – working in the UK. The EU talent pool has already been disrupted; Office for National Statistics data shows that migration from the EU is at its lowest since 2012. It seems that life sciences recruiters will need to look for new UK talent pools. Investing in, and using new technologies in the recruitment process, is going to become the norm, and forward-thinking recruiters don’t want to get behind the curve. If you want more info on Brexit and key developments, check out our Brexit hub.

Key messages to government

The REC’s Manifesto has been informed by members and highlights our priorities for the next government. These are the key messages we will be taking forward in 2020:

  1. Immigration must reflects employer needs
  2. Recognise the contribution of the sector
  3. Delay IR35 implementation
  4. Look at longer terms skills needs

Whatever the shape and colour of the next government, we will be using our manifesto to showcase the life sciences sector’s positive contribution to the UK economy. We want you to share these priorities with your local MP so together we can make change happen.

Our life sciences meetings in 2020 will be on 20 May and 18 November – save the dates now!


Neal Suchak
Neal Suchak - Policy Advisor

Neal is a Policy Advisor at the REC, and leads the Future of Jobs Observatory and the national network of Future of Jobs Ambassadors. Neal also provides policy analysis and procurement advice to the health & social care, life sciences and creative sectors; as well as working with senior leaders in the NHS and DHSC to deliver sustainable workforce solutions.

View More articles by Neal Suchak >

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