Biotech Industry Skills & Talent update: Reflections on the last quarter of 2021

By Dr Kate Barclay MBA CEng FIChemE, Skills Strategy Consultant, BioIndustry Association (BIA)

The BIA 2021 Skills and Talent workplan sets out to influence a skills-led recovery with a strong alignment with life sciences vision and feedback on post-Brexit immigration. Working in collaboration with the BIA member companies, the plan aims to address significant skills shortages across the sector by:

  1. Influencing future skills and talent policy representing the voice of innovative Biotech
  2. Connecting member companies on industry-leading skills and talent development
  3. Saving members' resources by sign-posting talent, skills, and funding opportunities

Feedback from the BIA members has been instrumental in shaping policies that affect access to skills and talent pathways for UK Bioindustry in 2021.

It provided insight into current challenges, barriers and opportunities for the sector and helped influence policymakers on the UK points-based immigration system (PBS). This led to the launch of a survey by the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to identify where the immigration and visa system could better support international researchers and the organisations in which they work. If you would like to complete the survey, please do so ahead of the deadline on 28th January 2022.

Thanks to member evidence and positive actions, the BIA was able to support several submissions on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), contributing to APPG on Equality in STEM and supplying evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee enquiry into diversity in STEM. We have also been part of the newly formed Medicines Manufacturing Challenge Fund EDI Community, led by Innovate UK, as part of a broader network of organisations sharing ideas and action plans to address EDI challenges. If you would like to be part of this community, please get in touch with me at [email protected]

Over the past year, the BIA collaborated with companies in the life sciences sector to align Comprehensive Spending Review asks on skills and talent.

We have represented the biotech industry and engaged with the Office for Life Sciences (OLS) and Department for Education (DfE) on funding proposals. Our work focused on providing support to SMEs around building apprenticeship programmes, developing vocational education routes with life science specific Institutes of Technology and building an Emerging Skills Pilot in Life Sciences to address bioindustry future skills needs.

In addition, the BIA supported the advanced therapy and vaccine manufacturing skills pipeline through key membership of Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership. We partnered with ABPI, OLS and Science Industry Partnership to form the Life Sciences Future Skills team across key themes including Apprenticeships, Global Operating Environment, Integrated Skills and Outreach. If you would like to know more and get involved, visit the Skills area of the BIA website.

A key part of the BIA skills programme for 2021 was engaging and sign-posting talent opportunities.

This was achieved through attendance at many technical events and networking sessions over the year. The entrepreneurial development continued through PULSE programme, leadership development through LeaP, participation in the panel on the Future Leaders Fellowship, a well-attended skills session at the bioProcess UK conference and membership of the newly formed Talent and Skills Advisory Group for UKRI. Our members have also provided strong feedback on skills gaps for scaling organisations and this year the BIA initiated a scaling pilot, exploring employee exchange opportunities and engaging with Innovate UK on Scaling the Edge Health & Life Sciences cohort. To find out about different skills and talent opportunities, visit the BIA Sector Jobs board.

Any skills discussion would not be complete without a mention of outreach activities and this year the BIA continued to promote STEM Outreach organisations to increase engagement with In2Science at BioScience Forum, BBSTEM at Women in Biotech in Cambridge and introducing biotech to Education & Training Foundation (ETF) engaging teachers in the latest technologies across the industry.


More news and updates

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Last week we gave our response to the Department of Work and Pensions consultation on facilitating investments in illiquid assets. We called on the UK Government to improve transparency in the pensions industry so that pension savers have access to diversified investment strategies benefiting from the wealth-creating opportunities of the UK’s innovative, venture capital-backed industries, including biotech and life sciences, while supporting issues the public care about, like better healthcare and a cleaner environment.

CEO Update | 9 May 2022

Congratulations to Omass Therapeutics for raising $100 million in the Series B financing round, as well as two BIA member companies - Scotland-based EnteroBiotix and Solvemed group, who were featured in Forbes ‘30 under 30 Europe’ Science and Healthcare Edition for 2022. We are also glad to see engineering biology receive £20.6 million in investment from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Read more on IP TRIPS Waiver, update on Northern Ireland and BBSRC Business and Academia Prosperity Partnership.


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