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- Scientific research and development
- Scientific research and development: future trends
Scientific research and development: future trends
In 2009, UK R&D spend in the sector was approximately £1.4bn, spent largely on industries allied to biotechnology, and it appears to be growing year on year [The 2010 R&D Scoreboard]. This represents a relative recovery in recent years, as spending on research declined after 2000 and only began to recover in 2006. The industry had a turnover of £12.5bn in 2007, and is an important - and growing - UK exporter.
Current trends suggest around 25,000 jobs will be required in the sector to 2016, mainly as a result of replacement demand for retirees and those leaving the sector. Much of this demand will be for managerial and skilled technical roles, both areas which are suitable for graduates with doctorates The large majority of these roles are expected to require degree level qualifications or above, but there will be an estimated 4,700 roles for holders of doctoral qualifications across all science industries (including the pharmaceutical industry), largely as managers and research professionals.
The future outlook for the sector is one of increasingly intense competition, particularly from countries producing a large number of scientists but with a relatively low cost of labour, India and China being the main examples. UK government economic policy sees scientific R&D as an important driver for growth and is keen to secure a supply of skills and to support organisations in the sector. However, large multinational organisations in the sector reacted to tougher global economic conditions with the recession in 2009 by attempting to rationalise costs; consequently the sector has seen some movement of research functions between countries as organisations seek what they perceive to be a good balance between competitive research and value for money.
Employers believe that development of new products and services, introduction of new technologies or equipment, introduction of new working practices and new legislative or regulatory requirements will all lead to change in skills demand within the industry. In addition, the concentration of public research funding amongst a smaller group of institutions may require organisations without existing links to those institutions to adapt. Developments in nanotechnology, materials science, electronics, mechatronics, ICT (Information and communications technology) and biotechnology are all expected to have an impact on the future size and shape of the sector.
There are felt to be significant skills gaps in the sector, both in terms of a shortage of specific skills, and a shortage of staff in specific roles. Specific job roles with skills gaps include corporate managers, sales representatives and chemists. Skills lacking in the workforce include a lack of experience, leadership skills, quality control skills and sales and marketing skills, and these are especially pronounced at the SMEs that make up so much of the sector. The three most frequently cited science skills gaps are chemistry, biology and pharmacology, and toxicology and pharmacy.
Specific areas of research identified as a priority for the sector include the following.
- New biological therapeutics and delivery systems, new vaccines, monoclonal antibodies and functional products (e.g. nutraceuticals), gene and cell-based therapies (e.g. regenerative medicine, genotyping and gene therapy, and personalised medicine). Developments in understanding of the human genome and the development of technology are expected to be particularly crucial in this field.
- Efficient chemical and biological processes, including catalysis and biocatalysts, and chemical to bioprocesses.
- Sustainable energy and materials e.g. waste treatment and recycling, biofuels, renewables and other biomaterials and chemicals.
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