Science Industry Partnership

30 Jan 2020

Life Sciences Skills Strategy shows demand for 133,000 jobs across the sector by 2030

The Science Industry Partnership (SIP) has today published the Life Sciences 2030 Skills Strategy in collaboration with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and the BioIndustry Association (BIA), with support from the Office for Life Sciences (OLS).

This Life Sciences 2030 Skills Strategy, developed under the leadership of the SIP Futures Group, sets out how, the UK Life Sciences sector will attract, retain, train and develop the research, manufacturing and technical skills required by a dynamic and diverse UK sector.

The wide-ranging Skills Strategy, a deliverable from the Life Science Sector Deal 2, forecasts the sector's demand for 133,000 skilled scientific staff through to 2030, all in highly specialised roles across the sector which embraces Biopharmaceuticals (R&D and Manufacturing), Medical Technologies (R&D and Manufacturing) and the services and supply chain.

It is a sector that is underpinned by skills across biomedical science, engineering, computer science, data analytics, chemistry, physics and mathematics in a close partnership with clinical research and high-value manufacturing expertise.

The work is underpinned by a comprehensive qualitative and quantitative research exercise into the skills required through to 2030 in order to ensure a globally competitive and digitally driven Life Sciences sector.

The research forecasts a growing workforce to 2030 broken down as follows:

  • 133,000 jobs across the entire Life Sciences sector to replace retirees and achieve our growth ambitions, of which:
    • 43,000 jobs in Biopharma
    • 90,000 jobs in Med Tech
  • 55,000 workers to replace retirees across the Life Sciences Sector

Each of the functional areas of the workforce are anticipated to require up to:

  • 19,300 jobs in Biopharma R&D
  • 6,400 jobs in Biopharma manufacturing
  • 8,000 jobs in Med Tech R&D
  • 46,500 jobs in Med Tech manufacturing
  • 52,400 Service & Supply jobs across the Life Sciences

Skills Shortages

This Skills Strategy builds on the ABPI's 2019 Skills Gap Research, which highlights the specific skills shortages in immunology and genomics, and the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult’s (CGT Catapult) skills demand report (2019), that highlights the urgent need to recruit and retain talent to meet the expected rapid growth of biomanufacturing.

The Life Sciences 2030 Skills Strategy highlights that a number of sector-wide skills issues need to be addressed to fulfil the sector’s full potential. These include:

  • Computational skills
  • Statistical literacy
  • Leadership
  • Effective communication
  • Inter-disciplinary working
  • Translation and commercialisation skills
  • Holistic sales and marketing skills

Key Recommendations



Comments on the 2030 Skills Strategy

Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi said:

“We want the UK to be a science superpower. The creation of new cutting-edge jobs in life sciences will help the UK make rapid progress in areas like early medical diagnosis and manufacturing, as well as helping level up every part of the UK with new opportunities.”

Alex Felthouse, Managing Director, Eisai Manufacturing Ltd and Chair, SIP Futures Group 

“This piece of work represents an important and strategic collaboration between the Life Sciences industry and key trade associations, supported by the Science Industry Partnership. It sets out the recommendations to take skills forward out to 2030 in support of our Life Sciences Industrial Strategy.

“To meet the demand that we have for the future we need to ensure that our industry is attractive to those who are considering joining the sector. We need to make them aware of all of the fantastic opportunities there are across a diverse and exciting range of activities – from research and development through to medicines manufacturing. We also need to ensure we have parity of esteem between different educational routes whether it be traditional academic routes, apprenticeships, vocational studies or ongoing Continued Professional Development. ”

Dr Malcolm Skingle, SIP Chair and Director of GSK 

“This new Strategy tells us that the Life Sciences sector has the potential to create approximately 133,000 jobs over the next 10 years, and that digital and computational skills, statistical literacy, leadership and inter-disciplinary working are essential to our continued success.

“Above all, we must ensure our Life Science sector workforce sector possesses such “integrated skills” so that they can adapt to what is becoming a new digital reality for us all. It is also clear that we need to continue to promote, encourage and incentivise the take-up of apprenticeships.  Levy recovery sits at only 6% of what is raised within Life Sciences; therefore, we are not maximising the range of fantastic apprenticeship standards developed specifically for our sector.”

Andrew Croydon, Skills & Education Policy and Examinations Director at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical industry said:

“UK science is internationally respected – but to stay on top of our game we have to address the skills gaps we face in crucial areas like immunology, genomics and computational disciplines.

“We want to see a new strategic advisory group established for skills, so that we can better anticipate and respond to workforce needs. We are also calling for a new Life Sciences skills fund, a new drive to inspire more people into STEM careers through vocational routes, and an immigration system that allows us to retain global talent.

“Government must take this Strategy forward so that the UK’s Life Sciences sector continues to lead high quality science, generate valuable jobs and create the treatments people need.”

Steve Bates OBE, Chief Executive of the BioIndustry Association said:

“Developing the future talent of our sector is essential to delivering ground-breaking treatments to patients and propelling growth in a key sector of the UK economy.”

 “As our sector grows, we will need more specialist jobs and unique skills to deliver this crucial part of the UK Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, which will require collaboration across the eco system. BIA member companies have been powerful advocates for addressing the skills gap, providing incredible insight and evidence, and they will do all they can to support and expand the UK’s talent pipelines.” 

Robert Watts, European Apprenticeship and Talent Programme Manager, Covance and member of the SIP Futures Group

“It is key for us that technical education sits alongside traditional academic collaboration and traditional routes into science, so that the new wave of apprentices are valued exactly the same as other trainees and in parity with some of the more traditional routes.

“We are moving into an era where data science is becoming more applicable to the science industries, alongside emerging technologies in immunology and genetics and into areas where we need more skills, such as IT and robotics. New apprenticeship standards will merge these new emerging techniques into old style jobs, underpinned by investment into the training and skills across academic, vocational and technical training.”

Jacqui Hall, Head of Early Careers, BioPharma R&D, AstraZeneca, Chair of SIP Cambridge and member of the SIP Futures Group

“The new 2030 Skills Strategy provides deep insight into the future capabilities and skills required for the science industries, in order to take full advantage of new and disruptive technologies, such as digital health and artificial intelligence. With the UK skills infrastructure now sitting across Higher Education and Further Education, there has never been a better time for further investment in technical and vocational skills development through higher level apprenticeships that are crucial to our sector and future talent development.”


Notes to Editors:

The SIP is an established, influential employer partnership for the science industries, which takes direct responsibility for sectoral ambition on skills. SIP member employers, together with the wider sector, are already investing significantly in skills, including Apprenticeships, the Continuing Professional Development of the existing workforce and a 600 plus strong SIP Careers Ambassador Network to showcase science-based careers in schools and colleges. It is facilitated by Cogent Skills.

The ABPI exists to make the UK the best place in the world to research, develop and use new medicines. It represents companies of all sizes who invest in discovering the medicines of the future. ABPI members supply cutting edge treatments that improve and save the lives of millions of people. It works in partnership with Government and the NHS so patients can get new treatments faster and the NHS can plan how much it spends on medicines.

The BIA represents the BioIndustry which delivers ground-breaking treatments to patients. The aim of the biotech companies to create novel therapies and diagnostics that will help treat and manage conditions to enable people to lead normal lives. From investing in and carrying out research and development, to getting drugs from the lab and into patients, UK bioscience plays a central role in developing the treatments needed for future generations here and around the globe.

Spokespeople from the above organisations are available for interview (Alex Felthouse SIP; Andrew Croydon ABPI; Steve Bates, BIA)

For further information, contact Judith Holcroft on 01925 515 215