For years, the UK has been known as a centre of excellence, thanks to its strong science and engineering capabilities. As a result of recent backing by the government, biotech in particular is experiencing rapid growth and is expected to generate £7.8bn in revenue across 2013/14 alone. Biotech may be big business, but it often starts small, with just a handful of people in any given firm. These businesses may well be shaping the world of tomorrow but when it comes to building their own futures, they tend to take a more traditional approach and more often than not, hire from within the wider biotech family.
Of course, these people are scientifically brilliant but they can lack both the commercial skills and experience needed to generate growth. For an industry that thrives on creating ‘the next big thing’, it’s simply not sustainable to keep repurposing from within. So what’s the solution?
Simply put, more effort must be made to attract people into this space from other industries. For me, the future of biotech won’t be driven by just science and technical know-how but by also having a better understanding of key processes and where efficiencies can be made. How? Employ skilled talent from a variety of other sectors and integrate the latest applications and techniques.
Manufacturing and engineering expertise can play a big role here, but if we are to make biotech an attractive choice for people across pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, design quality, manufacturing and engineering, we first need to bring it into the limelight.
A lot of this has to do with changing perceptions. In the past, people may have been reticent about getting into biotech. Long product development lifecycles, images of lab coats and small business thinking, have all contributed little to draw people into biotech but this simply isn’t the case anymore. Industrialisation of the sector is happening, money is flooding back into the market and government recognition means biotech is a really hot industry right now.
As well as getting the government’s seal of approval, big businesses are starting to invest more as well. This means that even if you work in a small biotech firm, you can still access big company thinking and backing, giving employees the best of both worlds.
There’s also a strong entrepreneurial spirit in biotech. These innovative firms are always thinking about what can be done differently and what needs to happen next. It’s never a case of ‘been there, done that’. There’s always more to be done, more problems to solve, and more innovation ahead. It’s an exciting new chapter and for me, that makes biotech one of the most attractive sectors to work in right now.