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UK’s life sciences sector continues to attract talent despite Brexit fear

26 Nov 2019

The largest area of growth has been within biotechnology companies, where job openings increased by 35%.

Despite the on-going political and economic turmoil, demand for professionals to work within the UK’s life sciences sector increased by 25% in 2019, according to data from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) and business intelligence specialist, Vacancysoft.

The research also revealed that, while pharmaceutical firms continue to provide the lion’s share of professional opportunities, the largest area of growth has been within biotechnology companies, where job openings increased by 35%. Demand for professionals in clinical research organisations was also high, rising by 25% year-on-year.

In terms of function, R&D remains the strongest area for hiring, with vacancies up by 31% since 2018. Demand for quality assurance specialists was also notable, rising by 28%. By specialist role, clinical researchers were noted as a fast growth profession, increasing by 25% within clinical research organisations and 10% across Big Pharma.

South East England is the most dominant region for hiring life sciences professionals, accounting for 37% of all vacancies in the UK in 2019. Since 2018, job openings in the region have increased by 22%. In London, vacancies rose by 30% over the same period and now account for 18% of total roles. While accounting for a smaller proportion of overall vacancies, the East Midlands, Yorkshire & the Humber, South West England and North East England all noted 50%+ year-on-year growth in demand for professionals to work in the sector.

Research organisation, Covance, is now the largest single hirer of life sciences professionals in the UK, with vacancies up by 111% year-on-year in 2019. PRA Health Sciences, Envigo and AstraZeneca are also major players, with vacancies at these firm increasing by 210%, 71% and 21%, respectively.

Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo, commented: “The UK life sciences sector is the most productive in the G7, and it’s encouraging to see that the government is fully committed to supporting its growth and by default, jobs in the sector. There are ambitious plans in the pipeline - as outlined in Sir John Bell’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy - which focus on developing cutting-edge technology and new innovations along with £1.2 billion of new investment that will further strengthen the UK as a world-leading science base.”

James Chaplin, CEO of Vacancysoft, added: “The life sciences sector in the UK continues to go from strength to strength, and is undoubtedly a critical part of the nation’s economic strength. It contributes over £70 billion a year to the economy and supports 240,000 jobs - with no signs of slowing down. It is also unsurprising to see that R&D continues to be one of the strongest areas for hiring, as the government has recently announced that it is committed to raising the intensity of R&D spend to reach 2.4% of GDP in the UK by 2027.”

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