Mapping the next generation of life sciences talent

The UK life sciences industry has transformed dramatically over the past two years, with the advent of COVID-19 and the subsequent investment into research and development.  According to the latest Government data, the UK life sciences industry employed over a quarter of a million people across 6,330 businesses in 2020 – and this has only expanded in the two years since.

The question is, do we have the skills and talent we need across the UK to drive the industry forward and where is that talent based? Alike the majority of industries, skills shortages are prevalent across the sector, with 88% of employers of life sciences professionals saying they have experienced skills shortages over the last year according to our UK Salary Guide for 2022.

Roles such as research scientists are in particular demand as a result of strong growth in the SME market, and there’s acute shortages across discovery and clinical research focused roles.

London and areas such as Cambridge have long been known as hubs of life sciences talent – however, emerging hubs such as Oxford, the North West, Scotland and the Midlands are starting to build on attracting talent – with many organisations offering a host of interesting projects to work on.

The Oxford Science Park for example, is home to more than 2,500 people in over 90 companies. Oxford is an attractive place for the industry and professionals alike with a steady stream of talent from local universities and educational institutes.

Elsewhere, Scotland is fast becoming one of the biggest industry clusters across Europe. Employing over 40,000 professionals across 750 organisations, the sector alone in Scotland produces 70% of media for biomanufacturing in Europe and is responsible for over 50% of Europe’s biosafety testing.

The North West is home to Alderley Park, the UK’s largest single-site life science campus, with a host of global companies operating from this area. Activity across the North East and Yorkshire is growing too, particularly within research and development – and many pharmaceutical manufacturers have a base in the North East.

According to the Life Sciences 2030 Skills Strategy, the sector in the UK has the potential to create over 133,000 jobs over the next 10 years, and digital and computational skills, leadership, and statistical literacy are essential to its continued success. However, the sector is also growing globally so UK based organisations will need to work hard to continue to attract and retain talent.

At Hays, we have expanded our footprint in life sciences with strategic investment in our experts across our Centres of Excellence in Oxford, Liverpool and Cork. We’re well positioned across the UK and Ireland to understand the enormity of what you are trying to achieve in your field, whether it be research and development, safety, medical and regulatory affairs, or production and quality.

Our suite of services enables us to provide a tailored approach to your recruiting needs. We can engage an individual or assemble entire project teams with pace and agility. Our consultants combine in-depth life sciences industry knowledge with the deep recruitment expertise that comes from being part of a global business. They have not only breadth of reach, but access to niche communities of sought-after professionals.

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Matthew Shaw-Clark is Client Engagement Director at Hays. Go to