Advanced Therapies Skills Training Network (ATSTN)
ATSTN connects training resources and educational programmes from across the advanced therapies, biologics and vaccine manufacturing industry in a one-stop shop. Backed by £4.7 million in funding from BEIS and IUK, the platform has been developed as a national initiative to drive growth across the sector, offering access to training facilities and increasing the connectivity of existing industry related training resources, supporting the uptake of new talent from different sectors and upskilling existing staff. As a publicly funded platform licences are free to those working in the UK.
Nuffield Research Placements (NRP)
NRP are engaging, real-life research or development projects, where talented year 12 (or equivalent) students are placed at the heart of a UK host organisation. Placements are still being sought for students from across the West Midlands and England - motivated students from first-in-family backgrounds and/or socially and economically disadvantaged families that are on a post-16 education pathway to develop their science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) skills.
This year’s cohort focuses on data analysis, biology, medicine, data science, bio-med and more. Do you know an employer who could offer a space this summer? Please contact Bethany at Coventry University for more information.
UKRI invited applications for individuals wishing to spend up to 3 years (full or part-time) on secondment within the biomedical sciences sector. Funding was available to create porosity between sectors by enabling career mobility, boosting the skills, knowledge and career development of people and intensifying knowledge exchange between industry and academia whilst adding value to the sector and the UK economy.
For Simon Chandler, CEO of Rinri Therapeutics, a pioneering regenerative cell therapy company in the treatment of sensorineural hearing loss, the Innovation Scholars was ideal in solving a skills and knowledge gap within their growing organisation. The company had strong research links with the Universities of Sheffield and Nottingham, and funding enabled career development and knowledge exchange across the industry and university environment, very much to the advantages of all organisations involved.
Simon says; ‘Both funding calls were an absolute no brainer for us and we are very pleased to be able to develop the careers of two academic researchers at different stages in their careers. The benefits definitely go both ways. Universities often struggle with the needs of businesses and complete immersion for this length of time really allows for learnings from all areas of a biotech business operations to embed, and as a business, we gain access to expertise, leadership and researchers across academic clinical networks that helps us gain insight we would not ordinarily get.’
Dr. Faizah Mushtaq, of University of Nottingham, says; '‘The hands-on and flexible nature of the secondment is enabling me to cultivate my entrepreneurial mind set and continuously enhance my understanding of organisational operations, processes and behaviours. During my first six months, I have already enjoyed taking on a number of varying responsibilities, ranging from clinical project management to organising patient and public engagement activities. These new experiences have not only enhanced my leadership skills and commercial awareness, but have also encouraged me to think outside of the box.
The secondment helps to bridge the gap between industry and academia in the exciting and emerging field of regenerative medicine for hearing loss by encouraging knowledge transfer between Rinri, academics and clinicians. I am able to utilise my previous clinical experience and understanding of translational research to help Rinri mitigate barriers they may experience when planning and delivering a first-in-human clinical trial’.
In2scienceUK gives young people from low-income backgrounds the opportunity to gain essential insights into STEM careers with dedicated professional mentors. Since 2011, In2scienceUK has provided thousands of young people with the experience, skills, and confidence they need to reach their potential in STEM further education and careers.
The young people that take part in the In2scienceUK Programme are recipients of free school meals, have parents with no higher education experience and live in areas in which progression to higher education is low. According to the Social Mobility Commission, these young people are significantly less likely to progress to careers in STEM with just 9% of life sciences professionals, 15% of scientists, 6% of doctors, 19% of tech workers and 21% of engineers coming from a working-class background. However, with salaries 20% higher in STEM careers compared to other sectors, In2scienceUK aims to provide these young people with a better future and greater social mobility.
One contributor who has made significant positive contributions to ensure In2ScienceUK is able to expand its support to more young people each year is the Avantor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of BIA member Avantor. In the last two years, the Avantor Foundation has provided over 150 young people from low-income backgrounds access to high quality, relevant STEM work placements.
Luke McKelvey, Development Manager at In2scienceUK: “The Avantor Foundation has enabled In2scienceUK to expand from a local organisation mainly operating in South East England to a national STEM engagement Charity that supports hundreds of young people each year across the United Kingdom in areas facing an acute lack of opportunities. The Avantor Foundation is investing in the future of young people from low-income backgrounds and leading the way to greater diversity and inclusion within the STEM sector”.
In2scienceUK’s impact has been recognised by the Queen's Award of Enterprise for Promoting Opportunity through Social Mobility 2021 for its exceptional services to young people. In2scienceUK aims to continue to expand across the UK and diversify programmes to promote greater inclusion of underrepresented young people.
Rebecca McKelvey, Founder, In2ScienceUK: “Our mission, to increase diversity and equal opportunity in STEM, has never been so relevant as it is today. Poverty and social background remain huge barriers to progressing to university and STEM careers. COVID-19 has highlighted the disparity of opportunity between young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who are more affluent. We need to tackle a skills shortage, improve our economy, and increase diversity in the workforce.”
To get involved, get in touch with Luke at [email protected]
In 2020, UK Research and Innovation awarded Dr John Hales, of UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering - University College London, the £1.2m Future Leaders Fellowship to use virus lasers to reinvigorate process analytical technology for biological manufacturing.
John first began the process of applying for a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship in April 2018. After passing an internal BEAMS School selection panel to become one of those put forward, the application went through several steps before John presented his proposal to an interview panel. The award is for four years, initially, and may then be extended for up to a further three years. The award also includes funding for a postdoctoral researcher as well as equipment, including a streak camera.
Following on from John’s previous work that has been a collaboration between UCL Biochemical Engineering and the London Centre for Nanotechnology, this project will see a collaboration with SwissFEL, the X-ray free-electron laser facility at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, who are providing support in-kind.
John says; “The long-term vision is to establish virus-laser technology as a once-in-a-generation analytical technology that will have a transformative impact in biological manufacturing, clinical diagnostics and environmental sensing. In this fellowship, my overarching goal is to reinvigorate process analytical technology for biological manufacturing by using virus lasers to directly monitor the critical quality attributes that affect the safety and efficacy of biopharmaceutical products at all stages of the bioprocess.
I will also undertake multidisciplinary research into virus lasers at the interface of synthetic biology and laser physics which will pave the way for future innovations. I plan to achieve lasing at ultra-low concentrations, establish a biological structure - laser function link using cutting-edge optical detection and the world's leading free-electron laser facility for photobiology, and then use these techniques to investigate in-depth the mechanisms behind a novel detection paradigm unique to virus lasers.”
Further information about UKRI funding
John Hales' Virus Laser Detection Article Published in Nature Communication
Latest skills updates
- Addressing and bridging the skills gap in advanced therapies
- Blog: Mapping diversity and inclusion for UK innovative life sciences
- Partnership with BIA: the gate for future leaders of global biotech industry
Industrial placement pilot programme to attract talents to life sciences
BIA’s Science and Innovation Community have kick-started an industrial placement pilot programme to attract digital talent into the life sciences discovery and innovation space.
The objective is to place students currently studying data science, informatics, computer science, programming or modelling into life science companies, through summer or one-year placements. This will help to bring more digital skills into the sector.
Projects that a placement student could work on could include software development and testing to create and improve in house software that is capable of analysing large datasets, and/or working on the development of a graph neural network to find links between drug compounds and drug targets.
If you would like to hear more or get involved, please get in touch with Netty England.
Skills within the Sector – EDI is key
An inclusive workplace culture is one that makes every employee feel valued and able to contribute. People work best in environments where they feel a sense of belonging and are not constrained by conforming. For that reason, inclusive workplace cultures are associated with improved team innovation, creativity, knowledge sharing, job commitment and even productivity.
The sector is not currently diverse. Less than 1% of life sciences employees are from Black/African/Caribbean/ Black British ethnic group, compared with approximately 3% in the wider economy. Approximately 11% of the life sciences workforce are disabled, compared with nearly 16% in the wider economy.
The Social Mobility Commission estimates that just 9% of life science professionals are from a working-class background. Women account for approximately just 40% of managers, directors and senior officials within the sector, whereas women make up around 70% of the administrative and secretarial occupations.
What’s more, there appears to be an issue with retaining female talent as their careers progress. Women account for just 37% of employees aged 50 and above across all occupational codes within the sector. This compares to 47% in the wider UK economy.