Simon and Gareth are experts in pharmaceutical recruitment; it’s what they do. Read their industry insights for what looks to be a candidate-led market in 2019.

  • UK pharmaceutical industry news and forecasts
  • Recruitment and salary information in UK pharmaceutical manufacturing and contract development
  • Profiles of two leading pharmaceutical recruiters: arrange to meet us at the Making Pharmaceuticals event
  • Making Pharmaceuticals and other key events for the UK pharma industry this year – meet us at stand 100

UK pharmaceutical industry news and forecasts

The pharmaceutical industry in the United Kingdom directly employs around 73,000 people and despite the continuing uncertainty around Brexit, UK pharma is thriving, and investment is looking positive for 2019.

Protel have reported that they are tracking 207 active pharmaceutical projects with a combined potential investment value of just over £4.8bn in the UK.

According to the latest report from Pharmapack Europe, the industry is entering the golden age of innovation for research & development, making 2019 the perfect year for companies wanting to bring their innovations to patients. *

From EPM this week:

“While the government’s approach to Brexit leaves something to be desired, quietly rumbling along in the background is the well-thought-out Industrial Strategy. It may be somewhat deprived of oxygen due political firefighting, but it’s still heading in the right direction.

Last month we received an update in the form of Life Science Sector Deal 2. News that Roche is to invest £20m over three years in a precision cancer research partnership with the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester is a huge vote of confidence for both the city and the UK. It further cements our growing reputation as an international destination of note for genomics and evidences the shift towards increasingly personalised oncology.

Other announcements in the deal were focused around facilitating the adoption of software and artificial intelligence. The increased integration of these technologies with traditional chemical and diagnostics pathways will be key as the year unfolds, and beyond.

Whitehall has laudable aspirations for the UK to become a global leader in these fields. Alongside rendering the country an attractive destination for global corporations and inward investment, they can also be part of the solution to the challenges facing the NHS.”

Reducing the impact of bad news

News of Novartis cutting 400 jobs at their Grimsby plant came as a blow, but in recruitment we regularly support companies who are going through redundancy procedures, as well as supporting those who have been made redundant. Although it is a challenging time for all involved, in pharma it’s unusual for experienced staff to struggle to find new roles. Novartis have said that they plan to spread the changes over four years and wanted to communicate those changes early and in a transparent way. Making redundancy announcements early gives staff a chance to prepare CVs and LinkedIn profiles, ready for the change. It allows specialist recruiters to work with companies and staff, to support transitions and where possible: career development opportunities.

Brexit will set the narrative for many investment decisions in 2019, with some large producers committing to investment plans that assume a ‘no-deal’ scenario with the European Union.

An example of this is the GlaxoSmithKline decision to shelve £350m of investment at Ulverston. However, there is still around £140m of investment being tracked across the 3 main GSK sites, so it’s not all doom and gloom. Far from it.

2019 forecasts

Protel have reported that they are tracking 207 active pharmaceutical projects with a combined potential investment value of just over £4.8bn in the UK. Our pharmaceutical team here at Science Solutions are busier than ever, with new entry-level and senior/ executive roles coming in every week.

“Drug discovery companies are competing to generate the next generation of antibiotics with an eventual commercial scale up inevitable. A number including Bicycle Therapeutics are looking to secure investor grant funding. This is likely to be a long drawn out process – up to ten years to scale from clinical trials to commercialisation – so no imminent investment is planned, but we’re expecting to see this start to filter through in the coming years.

R&D is continuing very strongly in the UK pharmaceutical industry, the government’s industrial strategy is aiming to bring Universities together with small, medium and large-scale businesses to collaborate and commit to further investment in the UK. This involves attempting to raise R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, delivering an increase of £80bn over the next 20 years. £146m of government money in the next 5 years is already committed across a number of areas, for example in advanced therapy, medicines and vaccine development and manufacturing.

UK advanced therapy SMEs are experiencing rapid growth and investment including Oxford Biomedica, Touchlight Genetics and Adaptimmune. The number of UK companies has increased from 22 in 2012 to 64 in 2017, which shows it as a promising growth area. MSD and Qiagen announced a combined investment in the UK of more than £1bn. Merck Healthcare established a £30m life science research centre in London and Qiagen Diagnostics are to develop a genomic campus in Manchester.

Artificial intelligence is currently being explored for its applications in pharmaceutical diagnostics and is a potential growth area. Potential benefits could include deploying informatics and data analytics platforms to inform clinical operations teams of emerging trends.”

Recruitment and salary information in UK pharmaceutical manufacturing and contract development

As the UK’s political landscape continues to change; recruitment into UK pharmaceutical manufacturing and contract development remains steady:

  • Expansion – new job opportunities at all levels.
  • Mergers – structural changes create new, often niche job openings.
  • Restructure – we often support companies through periods of transition, where new managerial roles are required to either work alongside existing staff or replace a role entirely.
  • Large contracts – each month we recruit temporary staff with extremely quick turnarounds (sometimes a couple of days) to help cover busy periods.
  • Replacing permanent, contract and temporary staff – as people move on to new roles, we support start-ups and SMEs through to large blue-chip organisations with sourcing the best possible replacements every time, with a focus on seeking out the outstanding contributors of the future.
  • Retained head-hunt assignments. In niche industries, executive-level head-hunting is often required, when finding managers and directors who will help take your business to the next level.

Shortage skills:

There’s a UK-wide shortage of method development skills (including HPLC) within the pharmaceutical industry. As with all skills shortages, this means job seekers can pick and choose their next career opportunity and can demand higher salaries. For manufacturers and contract developers: a slick recruitment process is key, along with considering overall packages rather than relying on salary alone to attract the best staff.


There is an abundance of BSc and MSc pharmaceutical graduates in the UK. With starting salaries of around £18,000 we often find that universities have given unrealistic expectations in terms of salary and entry-level roles. Exceptions apply of course, but for the most part, companies looking for graduates have no trouble recruiting.


It can take longer to recruit for businesses in locations further away from large cities, where fewer local candidates are available. For locations including South Wales, North East and rural areas – we often support relocators into open jobs in those areas, which can take a little longer. Although sleek recruitment processes are still required to secure staff when they are available. Relocators are usually looking at a number of different geographical locations, so the draw of an individual company is especially important.

The North West, London and the Midlands remain popular areas for pharmaceutical staff and of course the number of companies operating in these areas make career moves easier to facilitate.

Working with recruiters:

We have spent years working with pharmaceutical manufacturers and contract developers in the UK. We are a niche recruiter and our pharma team spend five days a week recruiting for the pharma industry. Communication is always key. Recruitment processes are much easier when we are in direct contact with technical teams, to ensure we are fully versed on exactly what the expectations of the line managers and hiring managers will be. We pride ourselves on honesty, open dialogue and integrity at all times. The companies who secure the very best staff in the market are usually those who offer good career development and training opportunities, a competitive salary and package and who focus on creating best first impressions during their hiring process. Speed on CV and interview feedback, honesty in terms of expectations and salary ranges and an exemplary new starter experience.

Temporary/ interim recruitment and job vacancies:

We pride ourselves on offering an elite interim and temporary cover service. For our clients we focus on skills, speed and compliance; ensuring that the best available staff are with you as quickly as possible and fully compliant in line with national parameters and your own company’s expectations. For job seekers: we work with interim staff and contractors – securing them the best roles on the market. For those who are immediately available due to graduation, redundancy, end of a contract or leaving a role: we support you to find a permanent role, often with temporary work to pay the bills in the interim. We are honest with all parties and work with expectations on start dates and duration of placements; ensuring that all sides are happy with each temporary/ interim placement.

Temp/ interim work can often pay a higher comparative salary, so we advise staff and manage expectations if they are also looking for permanent work, or if the temporary job is likely to go permanent.

Support for start-ups and SMEs:

It’s often easier for us to recruit for the big names in the industry: pharmaceutical staff already have brand awareness and sometimes salaries can be higher too (although not always). As well as supporting large companies with sourcing niche skill-sets and the innovators of the future that they often need to drive their business forward, we also pride ourselves on working hard alongside start-ups and SMEs; promoting the benefits of working for smaller organisations and getting to know the products and services that each company offers. We visit our clients: see the labs, get to know the technical teams. We support your business strategy and find those individuals who are best-suited to make a difference in your organisation. Some of our job seekers find that working for smaller organisations can provide them with a more rounded skill-set over time, often with better chances of career progression and promotion. More autonomy, closer working relationships, a higher level of responsibility. There are pros and cons for all working environments and our job is to not only match the skills – but to effectively match individuals with organisations in which they can have a positive impact.

Profiles of two leading pharmaceutical recruiters: arrange to meet us at the Making Pharmaceuticals event, we’ll be at stand 100

Simon Fowler: Lead Pharmaceutical Recruiter

Direct line: 01925 377820

My scientific recruitment career began in 2004, covering contingency right through to head-hunting and executive-level search assignments. I joined Science Solutions in 2016, where my focus is on sourcing talent at all skill levels for pharmaceutical manufacturers and pharmaceutical contract development organisations. I am proud to work with a range of clients who work alongside me time after time for their ongoing recruitment needs. I pride myself on delivering maximum effort, honesty and integrity, strive to continuously improve the service I can offer and endeavour to develop my own skills as a recruitment professional.

  • For executive level appointments, overly technical roles, or those requiring rare skills sets, I can offer a retained head-hunting and advertising service, which gives each role absolute priority.
  • For multiple role campaigns I can offer exclusive project options. Be assured I would manage these campaigns from start to finish.
  • I offer a contingency service at a fair market rate; however, I believe I add value to this service with my effort, resources, method and attention to detail.
  • Temporary and contract roles are also expertly managed – I offer competitive margins with a seamless payrolling process once the individuals are on board.

Science Solutions Recruitment also recruit all skill levels within: material and polymer science, biotechnology, speciality chemicals, drug discovery, medical devices, FMCG and cosmetics/personal care products

Gareth Gooley: Pharmaceutical Recruiter

Direct line: 01925 377818

After a career working in both laboratories and customer service, I decided to move into scientific recruitment at the start of 2016, where my focus was on placing scientific and engineering contractors into life science companies across Europe. I joined Science Solutions in October 2017 and now specialise in the recruitment of laboratory and quality staff within the pharmaceutical industry, combining my technical knowledge with a personable approach. I always take an honest and professional approach while representing candidates or working with clients and offer full transparency on all recruitment projects that I undertake and deliver.

My previous experience has allowed me to develop a diverse and high-quality network of clients and candidates within the pharmaceutical industry. If you are looking to add to your team or are seeking the next step in your career, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Read more about what our pharmaceutical recruiters could do for you and your network:

Gareth Gooley – Pharmaceutical Recruiter

Simon Fowler – Lead Pharmaceutical Recruiter

Making Pharmaceuticals and other key events for the UK pharma industry this year

The UK pharmaceutical industry plays host to a wide variety of industry events, spread over each calendar year. If you fancy a trip to Paris, there’s the Pharmapack event in February, or a trip to Berlin will take you to Pharma Contract Manufacturing in March, but here’s a few UK events to look out for at the start of 2019:

14th Annual Biomarkers Congress

  • 21-22 February 2019
  • Manchester
  • Oxford Global Conferences

20th International Conference and Exhibition on Pharmaceutics & Novel Drug Delivery Systems

  • 218-20 March 2019
  • Edinburgh

Making Pharmaceuticals – see you there!

  • 30 Apr – 01 May 2019
  • Ricoh Arena, Coventry

Cleanroom Technology Conference

  • 21-22 May 2019
  • National Conference Centre, Birmingham

Wishing everyone in the UK pharmaceutical industry a very successful 2019.

From all the team at Science Solutions Recruitment.

Contact us here.

#science #support #success


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