Life science leaders believe the Coalition Government will improve the business environment in their sector, but remain downbeat about the UK’s ability to compete effectively for global investment, according to the UK Life Science Leaders’ Survey 2010. The survey, sponsored by RSA, reveals that eight out of ten (82%) general managers (GMs) felt the coalition would have either a positive or very positive impact on general business conditions.

Competition concerns

However, many GMs also report reduced access to funds and the effect of public spending cutbacks on medicine prices as key concerns. Redundancies and site closures were cited as contributing to staff attrition and a reduction in morale, with talent retention and availability of skilled workers also cited as a key issue facing GMs in the coming two years. The survey was based on the responses of 390 key leaders from across the life science and healthcare industry in the UK.

Despite current concerns, 64% of GMs expect the coalition to have a positive impact on access to skills.

Opportunities and threats for talent retention

The survey also gave an insight into the expected impact of the coalition on key areas of the life sciences, from Pre-Clinical R&D and Medical Affairs to Supply Chain and Marketing.

Among the key issues, respondents cite the impact of budget reductions in academia as a current key issue, expressing concerns that the skill-set of graduates could suffer as a result. Concerns were also expressed over the migration of staff overseas if the UK loses its status as a centre of academic excellence.

Nevertheless, 62% of Pre-Clinical R&D leaders believe that academic industry collaboration will improve under the current Government. And there is a belief that the coalition could improve the situation, with 64% of general managers and 60% of pre-clinical research leaders expecting the new Government to have a positive impact on access to skills.

Worries over the reorganisation of the NHS permeated all sectors, with respondents uncertain on the impact this will have on NHS engagement and market access, and the potential for declining morale. However, opportunities were seen in collaboration and open innovation, increased reliance on health outcomes and greater scope for new technologies.

Nick Stephens, CEO of RSA commented: “Holding on to the best talent is going to be crucial whether this is at the lab bench or at senior leadership level. The Government needs to create incentives and plans to allow easy access to this talent in the UK and from abroad.

He adds: “The UK needs help in addressing the regulatory hurdles we have in place to ensure that the UK can compete on a level playing field.”

According to Mr Stephens, companies can help themselves by taking a long-term, strategic approach to talent management, enabling them to maximise strengths and ensure they are best placed to cope with uncertainties and changes in the life sciences environment.

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