Plan to provide world-calss sector with skills to match

A new Sector Skills Plan has been officially signed for Life Sciences and the Bio-economy in Norfolk and Suffolk, outlining ambitious plans to future-proof the sector’s skills provision and increase the commercial benefit from world-class research carried out in the East.

The Life Sciences and Bio-economy Skills Plan has been developed by the industry sector in Norfolk and Suffolk, working alongside the New Anglia Skills Board and supported by SkillsReach. It aims to meet the region’s projected demand for up to 14,000 new, highly skilled workers in the sector by 2025.

Life Sciences and the Bio-economy employ 25,100 people in Norfolk and Suffolk, with a GVA of £1.6billion. The sector accounts for 4.5% of the economy compared to 3.7% of employment, indicating that the average job is of high value.

Employment in the sector grew by 37% between 2010 and 2015, more than double the national rate of 18%. National research* suggests the sector will continue to grow strongly, with up to 14,245 new staff required by 2025. Of those, two-thirds will be trained to degree level and above and one-third trained via apprenticeships.

Research carried out to inform the new plan highlighted a number of challenges to the future growth of the sector:

  • Low number of apprenticeships in Life Sciences when compared to related sectors including Health
  • Lack of business groups, networks and infrastructure to support collaborative action
  • Relatively small commercial sector to exploit the world-class R&D base in significant and growing sub-sectors of life sciences and the bio-economy
  • Impact of potential or perceived changes to migration rules on international recruitment of world class talent
  • Current provision lagging behind industry requirement for ICT, data and maths skills

In the light of this research, the Life Sciences and Bio-economy Sector Skills Plan sets out the following priorities for action:

  • Develop an Economic Development Plan for Life Sciences and the Bio-economy as part of the implementation of the Norfolk and Suffolk Economic Strategy.
  • Promote the need for international recruitment and training.
  • Provide more commercial exposure and experience for students.
  • Support the development of higher and degree apprenticeship routes which combine study with work experience.
  • Improve skills provision in ICT, data and maths – for both the existing and future workforce.
  • Develop training in sectors using Life Sciences to develop ‘informed clients’ and create a ‘market pull’ for Life Science innovation.
  • Develop a network for education and training centres working in Life Sciences and the Bio-economy.

Paul Winter, Chairman of New Anglia LEP’s Skills Board, said: “It’s no secret that the East is home to world-class work in Life Sciences and the Bio-economy. But if we’re to stay at the leading edge of this vital and growing sector we must provide the skills to match. Key to that is working with business and education to identify the skills needs of this fast-changing industry. I’m confident this plan can do exactly that.” 

Dr Sally Ann Forsyth, Chief Executive Officer of Norwich Research Park, said: ““This is a really exciting time for Life Sciences in Norfolk and Suffolk, with research being conducted that will have huge impacts on agriculture and health worldwide, a growing number of commercial spin-outs and the opening this year of Quadram Institute Bioscience here at Norwich Research Park. This Skills Plan comes at a crucial time for our industry. It’s vital we work together to provide the skills needed to translate our leading research into innovative products for the global market place.”


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