Life Sciences look to interims to deliver ambitions

Life Sciences look to interims to deliver ambitions

The UK is a global leader in life sciences – supported by the combined strengths of a thriving science community and a network of world class universities. It is also a major employer and contributor to GDP. But, with the life sciences industry tightly-integrated with Europe, the Brexit vote may challenge its growth ambitions.

The Government’s Industrial Strategy has championed life sciences. Sir John Bell’s report provided key recommendations to the Government that could help drive the industry’s growth. Those recommendations focus on developing advanced research programmes, reinforcing the UK’s science offering, creating the right infrastructure for growth, exploring greater NHS collaboration, the role of data and building the right talent pool.

The skills agenda, which was set out as a core pillar of the UK’s national Industrial Strategy, will be the key enabler to growth in the sector.

However, for a sector that is reliant on a broad and deep knowledge base, and a ready supply of highly-educated and experienced scientists from around the world, Brexit presents a hurdle. There are concerns that the departure from the EU will disrupt that supply as the perception of working and living in the UK is compromised, let alone any potential changes to immigration policies.

The lack of visibility over future workforce supply has reiterated the importance of nurturing our own talent domestically, but also making the most of the pool of professionals we already have in the UK.

For many, at least in the short term, that means turning to the interim market. We’ve seen demand steadily rise following the Referendum.

An emerging factor within the market has been a specialist skills gap. However, a more fundamental issue is the growing concern over trading conditions and the threat of changes to regulation and Government policy. Therefore, business leaders could be looking for more flexible options.

In particular, professionals with experience in overseeing and driving change within a business to keep up with external market conditions.

It’s too early to tell whether this will be a long-term trend. However, it is clear that there are some specialist roles emerging for interim executives. These include positions that focus on transforming supply chains and procurement operations. 

In the pharmaceutical sector we see demand for interims who can oversee integration and implementation as part of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, which create a streamlined data system for all functions of an organisation to use. The technology behind such systems requires professionals with change programme management experience – and the race to secure such individuals is becoming increasingly competitive.

Advances in the biotech and medtech industries are also driving demand for individuals with specialist skills and product-based innovation experience.

These roles reflect just some of the pressure points being felt in life sciences. Flexible recruitment options are providing some welcome relief and the chance to bring in quality expertise and experience to tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing businesses today.

Unfortunately, there is a limited pool of interim talent and it isn’t just domestic businesses looking to access it. Foreign companies are also looking to UK markets, taking advantage of the nation’s rich expertise in the sector.

Change is in the air and there is an imminent need for businesses to respond and evolve their operations. Thankfully, leaders now appreciate that any response must be grounded in a solid people strategy. Interims are becoming more widely recognised as a means to access the necessary skills to build stronger businesses for the future.


Hugh Taylor at 31/10/2017 14:43 said:

Clearly, Brexit is a cause of concern for Life Sciences (and other sectors), as this piece clearly articulates. Despite the uncertainty, I can't help feeling that the impact will not be as dramatic as feared. I say this based on personal experience, which includes: 5 years representing the UK in Brussels on a Notified Bodies committee; 3 years running a life sciences business in Germany; and working in government in connection with the agri sector. My experience has taught me that the UK is held in great esteem by our continental colleagues, and - despite the posturing - they cannot imagine life "without" the UK. I was in Romania just after the Brexit vote, visiting a superb laboratory in Bucharest. My Romanian host, whilst shocked by the vote, was absolutely adamant that scientific and business links must not be broken. At the end of the day, I feel confident that common sense will prevail and both sides will find a way to make this work, in spite of what the politicians say.

Dan Kiely at 31/10/2017 16:54 said:

Many thanks for the comment Hugh, with which I agree wholeheartedly. I think you hit the nail on the head when you mention ‘posturing’. Amid all the press hysteria it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we are in the midst of a major, wide-ranging negotiation with the EU and that each side has a vested interest in controlling the narrative to support its own desired outcomes.

Ultimately, as you say, common sense will prevail and we will of course continue to work closely with our continental colleagues. There is however much to be done before that point and it is critical that the Life Sciences sector makes its voice heard during the negotiations, particularly when it comes to the regulatory landscape and the ability to hire the best talent from anywhere in the world.

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