Clinical & Engineering News reports that the UK will struggle to retain its position as a life science research and development hub (including clinical trials) due to a shortage in scientific and medical talent.
What is the Situation?
In 2003 the UK drug industry had about 84,000 employees—there was a sudden drop to 73,000 in 2003. Today, it employs only 63,000 (24,000 devoted to R&D, according to the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)). The UK pharma industry is a major contributor to R&D with about $5.2 billion annually invested. This fell 22% between 2011 and 2016.
UK pharma layoffs have slowed but Britain is now trying to solidify the UK as a drug discovery hub. A recent survey by the ABPI however revealed the pharma sector struggles to find scientists—without an infusion of young new talent there will not be another boom in the UK
UK undergraduates studying science, technology and engineering as well as math has increased 16% over the past ten years but this pales in comparison to the EU’s 52% and 63% outside of the EU. The UK is falling behind the rest of the world including its European neighbors.
Brexit = Stop it!
Brexit hasn’t helped. Growing nationalism and biased prejudice in certain UK quarters (this also applies to this author’s home country of the USA) and tighter migration rules means higher tuition fees for EU and non-EU/non UK students and is expected to increase. This equates to fewer scientists, doctors, engineers and others for a highly skilled, highly educated workforce. A big pharma survey (e.g. GSK, Pfizer, Merck, etc.) notes they flagged Brexit as the most critical threat to job growth.
While UK Pharma Struggles a Bit, CROs Appear to Prosper
UK CROs are doing well. They face the same skill shortages but at least report good sales for contract outsourcing services. UK had a global empire and generally that legacy of culture, language and connectivity may help small to mid-sized CROs network and compete on a global scale.
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