The UK is a leading global hub in life sciences. This is in large part driven by the quality of our workforce in companies, universities and, of course, the NHS. That is why developing and attracting the best talent in life sciences has been an ongoing priority for the ABPI. It is even more important now as we seek to maintain the strength of our sector as the UK prepares to leave the EU. If we don’t address the skills shortages we face, our world-leading status for medicines R&D is at risk.
To remain at the cutting edge, we have to relentlessly review and adapt our skills and workforce requirements. Interdisciplinary areas such as chemoinformatics, which require an understanding of chemistry, as well as the ability to interpret big datasets, have emerged as a key requirement for the future.
Genomics is another priority area emerging in this survey. Many of our member companies have highlighted that the use of genomics is driving a new era of drug discovery. Increasing skills in genomics will help reduce the high failure rates for medicines discovery and make it more likely that future medicines are better targeted and safer for patients.
Certain skills continue to be highly valued – particularly clinical pharmacology. This core discipline allows us to improve patient care through the safe and effective use of medicines. As part of the Clinical Pharmacology Skills Alliance (CPSA), we are creating a new standard for an apprenticeship as a Clinical Pharmacology Scientist, which should help us encourage more young people into this field.
The key thing our report demonstrates is that we need to do more to encourage young people to study STEM subjects in the first place, and then find better ways of enticing them into long-term careers across life sciences. Greater uptake of apprenticeships is part of this – they are up 31% since 2015 and up by 169% since 2013, but we still need more.
We also need Government, the industry, educational institutions and the NHS to work together to develop new ways to create a sustainable skills pipeline.
I hope today’s report will inform conversations about the skills our industry needs and how to address the gaps. I want to help make sure we develop the next generation of the much-needed life sciences workforce.
To remain at the cutting edge, we have to relentlessly review and adapt our skills and workforce requirements.
Carole Longson, Chief Scientific Officer at the ABPI