UK biotech needs more management talent

The UK biotech industry is the strongest in Europe, but won’t fulfil its potential if more leaders aren’t found over the next decade.

That’s the message from the UK biotech association the BIA, which has today launched a directory of mentoring and training schemes to help the creation of a new generation of leaders.

The US is the world leader in biotech, a lead established thanks to a plentiful supply of the key ingredients – cutting edge science, plentiful funding for research, and lots of experienced pharma leaders and biotech entrepreneurs.

While the UK and the rest of Europe has great science, its supply of funding and biotech leaders still lags behind the US.This week is European Biotech Week, and the BIA is raising awareness with a view to trying to close the talent gap.

“The BIA’s Vision for UK life sciences sector in 2025 estimated that the sector needs 10 times more biotech management talent,” comments BIA chief executive Steve Bates.

“As an industry, we must get better at recognising and nurturing future leaders and making sure that we then retain them here in the UK. Talent is a key priority for the BIA and we will work with members and wider stakeholders to ensure that UK biotech can achieve our vision of becoming the world’s third largest cluster.”

The two biggest biotech clusters are in Boston/Cambridge in Massachusetts and the San Francisco Bay Area, and are proving a magnet for biotech money and talent. The so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ of London, Cambridge and Oxford is the strongest cluster in Europe, but still far behind its US rivals. 

Research recently undertaken by the ScaleUp Institute found that two thirds of BIA members surveyed said that they needed more management talent. The research also found that two thirds of respondents were keen to grow their own management talent, and more than half were interested in mentoring and professional support.

The sector is also still wondering about the impact of Brexit will have on its fortunes, including its ability to attract talented researchers from the EU if immigration curbs are introduced.

Despite these concerns, there is a sense of optimism within the sector, with early signs suggesting that biotech firms won’t be deterred from investing in the country despite Brexit.

Last week saw US biotech Alnylam open a new European operational headquarters in Maidenhead, near London.

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