Companies and individuals have been recognised for their excellence in advancing the future skills required for the life sciences industry at the inaugural UK Life Sciences Skills Awards, organised by Cogent.

More than 30 finalists competed across 11 categories, which recognised apprentices, graduates and employers for their role in helping reduce the skills gap in the UK life sciences workforce to ensure success and sustainability in the future.

Novartis took the top award – Excellence in Skills – for scoring highly across all the categories.

Amgen was named global employer of the year based on its Scholars programme in the USA and Europe, which gives students the opportunity to work alongside some of the most influential academic research scientists.  

Small employer of the year went to Eden Biodesign, which is the foundation of parent company Actavis’ biologics strategy in oncology, biosimilars, women’s health and urology, and is committed to supporting the local community through education business partnerships with primary and secondary schools.    

Linda Millett, head of human resources at Takeda Cambridge, won the Outstanding Leadership in Skills Award after influencing the firm to take on the first Higher Apprentice in the life science sector. Millett believes that awareness building in schools will go a long way to develop life scientists of the future and that sourcing new talent will be what fuels the sector’s ability to innovate and collaborate. She said: “Apprenticeships provide an apprentice a first-class training opportunity in a scientific environment, and are the way forward for developing future generations of science professionals across the country.””

Meanwhile, UCB’s Hannah Compton took home the Undergraduate of the Year award, with Postgraduate of the Year going to Dario Carugo from the University of Southampton.

The awards also recognised excellence in skills across the NHS scientific workforce and its collaboration with the industry.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “The UK’s life sciences industry is exciting, innovative and ground-breaking, and I’m thrilled to celebrate its continuing success. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick in Cambridge, a discovery that transformed our understanding of human disease. Now the sector needs to prepare for the challenges and opportunities of the future, harnessing cutting-edge technologies such as synthetic biology and regenerative medicine, and finding ways of using these techniques in the emerging bio-economy.”

Representing the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, the evening’s main sponsor, Chief Executive Stephen Whitehead said: “We were very pleased to support such an excellent evening, which recognised best practice in education and skills from apprenticeships to excellence in training, which is of course part of our own mission. The evening celebrated some of the very best examples of innovative, sustainable training and development initiatives.””

The winners are:

Advanced Apprentice of the year Award

(Sponsored by Biocatalysts)

Diane Skillen, Wirral University Teaching Hospital, NHS Foundation Trust

Higher Apprentice of the year Award

(Sponsored by Johnson and Johnson)

Andrew Mitchell, Unilever UK

Employer (small) of the year

(Sponsored by Amgen)

Eden Biodesign (The Actavis Group)

Employer (global) of the year Award

(Sponsored by the National Skills Academy Process Industries)


Undergraduate of the year Award  

(Sponsored by Clinigen Group)

Hannah Compton, UCB

Postgraduate of the year Award

(Sponsored by Clinigen Group)

Dario Carugo, University of Southampton

Healthcare Science Award

(Sponsored by NHS)

The North East Pathology Network

Outstanding Leadership in Skills Award

(Sponsored by UCB)

Linda Millett, Takeda Cambridge

Placement of the year Award

(Sponsored by BBSRC)

David Blaney, Oxford Gene Technology

Provider of the year Award

(Sponsored The Science Council)

Vocational Science Team, Bradford College

Excellence in Skills

(Cogent Award)