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Remedying skills shortages in the health and life sciences sector

The new North East Health, Life Sciences and Medicines Manufacturing Strategy aims to double the number of jobs in this sector in the North East, and also to double the number of businesses active in the sector. The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Interim Programme Manager for Health and Life Sciences, Karen Burgess, explains how the sector is working together to tackle barriers to growth, including a shortage of specialist skills.

Health and life sciences is an area where the North East has significant strengths, and it’s an area where we know there’s real potential for growth. We launched the North East Health, Life Sciences and Medicines Manufacturing Strategy earlier this year to identify the opportunities for expansion, and also to tackle any challenges that might be in the way of businesses creating more and better jobs in our region.

One challenge which was quickly identified is skills. We carried out research with medicines manufacturing businesses in our region and found that, while most businesses operating in this sector have plans to expand their workforce, many of them experience difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff with the skills they need.

Of course, plans to recruit more staff is a positive, and will help us reach the goal of increasing the number of jobs in the sector from 12,000 to 24,000 by 2030. However, as businesses grow and advertise more vacancies, the existing skills shortage will be exacerbated.

Our research into skills needs of these businesses found that:

  • Just over 80% of the medicines manufacturing companies that we spoke to currently have vacancies at their North East sites
  • 55% of organisations have had trouble filling vacancies due to candidates lacking digital skills
  • 100% of organisations we spoke to have experienced difficulties filling vacancies due to candidates lacking technical skills, experience or qualifications
  • 72% of employers pay the apprenticeship levy but the total number of apprenticeships in the sector is low

It’s clear that we need to take action to help businesses recruit more effectively and upskill their existing workforce where necessary. That’s why the North East LEP has formed the new Health and Life Sciences Skills Group, where industry, educators and skills awarding bodies are working together to build a skills framework to enable the sector to grow and thrive in our region.

The group aims to build stronger links between employers and education providers, so that we can make sure that students are equipped with the skills that employers will need in the future, and that businesses have the opportunity to help inspire young people about the range of careers paths on offer to them.

By collaborating to address the issues employers face around the recruitment and upskilling of staff, we can grow our pool of talent with the specialist skills needed in the sector and support the workforce to adapt as the manufacturing process becomes digitalised, increasing the need for people to acquire more digital skills. The group will also support the next phase of our research to understand the skills needs of other areas of the life sciences sector.

By bringing industry and educators together, I’m confident we can remedy the problems raised by skills shortages, and build a healthier, stronger environment for businesses to grow.

Read the Health and Life Sciences Skills Report here, and email [email protected] to find out how to get involved in the Health and Life Sciences Skills Group.

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Plan unveiled to double North East health and life sciences jobs

A new strategy designed to double the number of North East jobs in the health, life sciences and pharmaceuticals industry has been launched.

The North East Health, Life Sciences and Medicines Manufacturing Strategy has been developed by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) working in partnership with the NHS, businesses, universities and leaders in the health and life sciences sector.

As well as aiming to double the number of jobs in the sector from 12,000 to 24,000 by 2030, the strategy aims to double the number of businesses active in the North East health and life sciences community from 150 to 300.

Lucy Winskell OBE, Chair of the North East LEP, said: “At a time when the world is facing challenges brought by an ageing population, and grappling with the consequences of COVID-19, the North East has the potential to become a leader in developing treatments which can improve quality of life the world over, while stimulating economic growth in our region.”

Health and life sciences is identified as an area of opportunity for the region in the North East Strategic Economic Plan, which is the roadmap for creating 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.

The Health, Life Sciences and Medicines Manufacturing Strategy identifies opportunities in a number of specific areas including the development of advanced therapies and drug delivery systems, growth of the pharmaceutical manufacturing supply chain, diagnostics development and scale-up, and an evolving ecosystem of innovation centres that supports businesses to start, grow and scale in the North East.

It also lays out the region’s strengths including an advanced manufacturing cluster, contributing significantly to the global pharmaceutical industry, generating £868 million for the regional economy in 2017; an emerging biotech cluster driven by corporate and university spinouts; and a skilled future workforce, with 22,000 students studying health and life sciences at North East universities.

Professor Michael Whitaker FRSA FRSB FMBA FMedSci, Chair, Health and Life Sciences Group, said: “We have a fantastic innovation ecosystem supported by an incredible translational environment where healthcare technologies and medicines are being constantly developed. Forward thinking leadership here in the North East is helping to drive forward global health services and markets – something of which we should all be very proud.”

Professor Chris Day, Vice Chancellor, Newcastle University and Chair of the Office for Strategic Co- ordination of Health Research, commented: “The North East is home to international academic research expertise in health and life sciences which not only provides competitive advantage but creates significant regional benefits. Our growing reputation as a testbed and living lab is enabling us to accelerate innovation as well as attract investment and skills.”

Read the North East Health, Life Sciences and Medicines Manufacturing Strategy here.

ENDS

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Unique new fund announced to protect IP of Health and Life Sciences businesses in the North East

A unique new fund aimed at protecting the intellectual property of high value health and life sciences businesses in the North East has been announced by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP).

The COVID-19 Patent Protection Scheme is a £300,000 grant fund designed to support high-value proposition (pre-commercial) health and life science businesses negatively impacted by the coronavirus crisis and at risk of losing their patents and intellectual property due to lack of funds.

The scheme has been developed in direct response to the needs and demands of businesses operating in the health and life sciences sector, many of which have not qualified for government support or local authority grants.

Katherine Forbes, Health and Life Science Programme Lead at the North East LEP, said: “For early stage innovation and research-led businesses in the health and life sciences sector, protecting and retaining intellectual property is vital for securing investment and ensuring a strong commercial footing in the future.

“If we don’t support these businesses now we risk losing significant assets, talent and skills, and our future scale-up businesses from the region, and that will damage the sector as a whole.

“The health and life sciences sector is one of four areas of strategic importance identified in the North East Strategic Economic Plan. It has a vital role to play in our economic recovery, which is why the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group – led by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership – established the COVID-19 Patent Protection Scheme.

“This Grant Fund is unique to the North East. So far, this has not been replicated in other areas of the country. It really demonstrates the North East’s commitment to growing the health and life sciences sector, which contributes more than £1.5bn GVA to the local economy every year.”

Pre-commercial, high value proposition businesses in the North East LEP area with life science-related patent(s) are invited to apply to the fund. Grants of up to £25,000 will be awarded to cover new or essential filings and the costs of retaining patents, or annual renewal fees of patents, incurred from 9 July 2020 – 31 March 2021.

More information is available is available by clicking here. Application forms can be requested by emailing [email protected].

The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group was established by the North East LEP at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to provide business resilience and ensure a collective response to the economic impact of COVID-19 on the North East economy.

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In conversation with Katherine Forbes, Health and Life Science Programme Lead at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, about the new Health & Life Sciences Project Development Fund

Why are you introducing a Health and Life Sciences Project Development Fund?

The North East has a strong, unique and growing health and life sciences sector, which is why it’s recognised within the North East Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) as one of four areas of strategic importance in the region.

The growth and continued success of the sector will play a significant role in helping the region recover from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and help achieve the SEP’s aim of creating 100,000 more and better jobs.

To help deliver this ambition, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership has launched a new Health & Life Sciences Project Development Fund with £300,000 from the Local Growth Fund. The fund will provide upfront support – up to a maximum of £50,000 – to accelerate the specification and business case for projects that will be key to the future growth of the health and life sciences sector in the region.

We plan to develop a pipeline of collaborative and ambitious projects for the North East that will enable us to:

  • Secure future investment
  • Encourage more businesses to base themselves in the region
  • Grow and strengthen the health and life sciences ecosystem by developing and accelerating the innovation and commercialisation support activity for spin out / startup businesses
  • Expand pharmaceutical manufacturing.

What type of projects are you looking to support?

We’re looking for ambitious projects that will go on to create more and better jobs in the North East, lead innovation in the sector, and attract investment. The fund is an opportunity for organisations to collaborate and submit proposals to develop business plans, feasibility studies and reports for strategically significant projects that will prepare them to secure additional funding, and help us develop a strong pipeline of capital, revenue and infrastructure projects.

We know, for example, there is a significant opportunity for growth within pharmaceutical manufacturing. COVID-19 has reinforced our reliance on international supply chains for essential medicines. The re-shoring of pharmaceutical manufacture to build resilience in the supply base of essential drugs and medicines for the NHS – and the opportunity to innovate within the manufacturing process to build this capability and retain it here in the North East – would also develop significant supply chain and inward investment opportunities, helping to create jobs both within the health and life sciences sector and across wider supply chain and service sectors.

What opportunities exist for health and life sciences sector in our region?

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant and detrimental impact on some industry sectors. The North East’s health and life sciences sector has not only responded quickly, but has made a significant contribution to supporting the response. The COVID-19 pandemic has also created further opportunities to grow the sector and drive the region’s economic recovery.

Here in the North East we have an unrivalled combination of academic expertise across our universities and a leading Academic Health Science Network, which is pivotal in delivering commercial ideas into the NHS.

We have exceptional NHS Trusts and NHS organisations that are not only providers of excellent health care, but leaders in the field of clinical research, evaluation and clinical trials.

Over the last few years there has been significant investment in state-of-the-art health and life sciences infrastructure and assets across the North East, including The Biosphere on Newcastle Helix and CPI’s National Formulation Centre and National Centre for Healthcare Photonics at NETPark in County Durham.

The combination of the business base; exceptional health, research and health innovation capabilities; and the partnership between the health system, science and business community, represents a significant opportunity to grow the health and life sciences sector in the region, improve services, and create jobs.

What are the aims of this fund?

It’s the North East LEP’s ambition to double the number of jobs and the number of businesses working in the North East’s health and life sciences sector by 2030. It’s really important for applicants to outline how their project will help us achieve this.

This Health & Life Sciences Project Development Fund will help create a pipeline of strategic projects that will bring investment to our region, grow the business base, and help deliver our aim of creating 100,000 more and better jobs for the North East.

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Voluntary and community sector member required for the North East Local Enterprise Partnership Board

Do you believe in the North East, its people, places and businesses?

Could your experience operating in the voluntary and community sector support our plans for economic growth in the region?

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) works with partners across the region and with Government to deliver the North East Strategic Economic Plan, with the ultimate aim of creating 100,000 more and better jobs between 2014 – 2024.

We are now looking for a representative from the voluntary and community sector in the North East to join the main North East LEP Board.

We’re particularly interested in people who have a clear grasp of the sector across the region and who can act as its ambassador, providing insight and expertise to deliver across the key themes and programmes in the Strategic Economic Plan.  This is a newly created LEP Board Member position to further strengthen our governance and inclusivity.

The Board includes representatives from across the public, private and education sectors who advise on key decisions and use their knowledge and expertise to support the North East LEP in achieving its ambitions for the North East.

Board members are not remunerated and serve for an initial three year term. The North East LEP embraces diversity and is keen to hear from female and/or BAME candidates.

If you are interested in being considered for this role, can you provide a covering letter and CV to Helen Golightly, Chief Executive of the North East LEP by Thursday 31st October to [email protected]

 

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North East LEP appoints Katherine Forbes as Health and Life Sciences lead

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has appointed a highly-experienced Health and Life Sciences Lead to strengthen economic growth and innovation in the region through the North East health and life sciences sector.

Katherine, a graduate returner to the North East, whose career spans the private, public and higher education sectors, has over 20 years’ experience working across economic development, policy and partnership roles. She has a track record in developing and delivering ambitious projects and collaborations for the North East.

Katherine Forbes said: “I am excited to take on this role, and ambitious for the region’s health and life sciences sector.

“The North East region is recognised as having a strong and growing health and life sciences profile with assets of national and international quality in research and development, science, health care services and medicines manufacturing, and an SME base with expertise in health technologies, testing and clinical trials.

“Together, these assets represent a significant opportunity for growing our economy, improving services and delivering more and better jobs for the region.

“I hope I can help to build on the real buzz which exists across health and life sciences in the North East through new projects and great collaboration, which will further cement our reputation as a lead player in the life sciences sector.”

Katherine’s previous posts include Director of Yellow Brick Road Ltd and GX Innovation Manager at NewcastleGateshead Initiative.

Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East LEP, said: “The North East offers a unique environment for innovation in health and life sciences.

“We have an unrivalled combination of skills, physical assets, capabilities and networks, as well as an excellent quality of care and a focus on health innovation and partnership between the health system, science and business.

“Katherine brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the role, as well as a passion for the health and life sciences sector, and the North East as a region. We are delighted to welcome her to the team.”

For more information, visit our Health and Life Sciences page.

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In conversation with Alan Welby, Innovation Director at the North East LEP, about the opening of The Biosphere

In 2005, the last batch of Newcastle Brown was produced at the Newcastle Breweries site, which stood opposite another of our city’s iconic buildings, St James’ Park.

Exported to more than 40 countries across the world, Newcastle Brown helped put Newcastle upon Tyne on the map. Fast forward to 2019 and a new building on the former brewery site is about to do the same.

The Biosphere, part of the Newcastle Helix development in the city centre, is a specialist lab facility tailored to commercialisation of life sciences. Home to some of the most innovative and pioneering health and life sciences companies operating today, the work they do in our region will impact people across the world.

The life sciences sector is one of the fastest growing areas of industry in the North East. From CPI’s (Centre for Process Innovation), world-class centres at NETPark in County Durham to the Centre for Life in Newcastle, we have developed a strong cluster that will be bolstered by the opening of The Biosphere.

Congratulations should go to Newcastle City Council for spearheading the project. It demonstrates the city’s ambition and forward thinking approach to growing our economy and creating more and better jobs by investing in sectors linked to the UK’s Industrial Strategy. Without specialist facilities like The Biosphere, ambitious companies within life sciences, healthcare and emerging fields of biotechnology will go elsewhere and that would be bad news for our region.

Being based at Newcastle Helix not only gives companies access to essential support services but also opens a wealth of opportunities such as access to university expertise and research but also the potential of collaboration with others on site – and it’s when companies collaborate that will see real innovation happening which can unlock business growth.

Let’s not forget, we also have a large NHS footprint in the North East, which means we’re home to the UK’s largest research active public health system. North East Health Trusts lead the rest of the country for involvement in clinical research with Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust ranked first for the last six years. That’s provides a significant opportunity for health and life sciences companies working in our region.

It’s for those reasons and more the North East Local Enterprise Partnership was happy to invest £8.6m in The Biosphere from the Local Growth Fund. We recognise its importance to growing the sector and our economy as a whole. More needs to be done to commercialise the health and life sciences sector and The Biosphere will provide the right environment for that to happen.

Newcastle Brown may longer be brewed on Tyneside, so I hope you’ll join me in raising a glass of Wylam Brewery’s Jakehead IPA, or another of your favourite local ales, to toast the opening of The Biosphere.

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The North’s Life Sciences sector to gather at conference

The North’s innovative life science sector will be celebrated and showcased at an event in Newcastle tomorrow (3 July).

The BioFocus Conference, which is organised by Bionow and sponsored by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), will bring together businesses from the life sciences and pharmaceuticals sectors. It will also feature experts from the region’s universities and healthcare organisations and is designed to explore the latest developments in areas including ageing and clinical research. 

Bionow CEO Geoff Davison said: “The life sciences sector is one of the success stories of the North East and we have leading edge research happening here in the region aimed at tackling everything from cancer to ageing.

“BioFocus is a chance for the whole of the life science sector in the North East to connect and share knowledge on these important areas of the economy, research and policy as well as the factors affecting the sector today such as funding opportunities and Brexit.”

Richard Baker, from the North East LEP said: “Life sciences is an area where the region excels – we’re home to national centres of research excellence, a globally focused industrial cluster and world-leading health care organisations, and the sector is an integral part of our Strategic Economic Plan for the region which has led to a number of new projects being supported. 

“We’re proud to be supporting this event which will be an exciting day of discussion, ideas and innovation and to be working with the sector to address its opportunities and challenges.” 

The conference hosts, Bionow, is a not for profit membership organisation that supports life sciences across the North of England.

The event will include showcases from some of the region’s leading life sciences organisations including County Durham-based Stream Bio, who recently travelled on the Prime Minister’s trade mission to China and Newcastle’s NewChem Technologies which has grown from a spin-out from Newcastle University to become a well established company working with businesses across the world in the agrichem and pharma sectors. 

Keynote speakers will include Elaine Warburton from QuantuMDX and Newcastle University’s Professor of Pharmaceutics and Nanomedicine Moein Moghimi.

BioFocus takes place on Tuesday 3 July at the County Hotel in Newcastle. More details are available at www.bionow.co.uk.

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In conversation with Dr Geoff Davison. BioFocus – what’s it all about?

The North East LEP is proud to sponsor the BioFocus Conference, which takes place at the County Hotel in Newcastle on Tuesday 3 July 2018.

Welcome to the second instalment of my BioFocus Conference blog. The countdown to this year’s BioFocus Conference is underway, and the Bionow team look forward to welcoming you to our conference on the 3rd July, at the County Hotel in Newcastle.

We’re working closely with the Conference sponsor, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, to bring together a Conference that is bespoke and relevant to the region, and several key themes have been identified which I will elaborate on in this blog.

One thing I know people enjoy at BioFocus is networking, and there are going to be several good networking opportunities at the Conference. For many of you, networking opportunities are almost on a par with the subject material, as they provide an opportunity to introduce, learn, collaborate and build connections. They are also a crucial part of the Conference for exhibitors.

Traditionally, BioFocus has had an industrial showcase session, giving companies from the region the opportunity to talk about their experience and journey and this is always an intriguing session as it allows others to hear interesting and relevant case studies about the challenges small businesses face, and more importantly how to overcome those challenges.  This session will continue as in previous years, and I will reveal further details of who is speaking as we get closer to the Conference.

We live in interesting times, and it is important that this year’s conference reflects this, therefore we’re going to explore this in a ‘state of the nation’ session. This will cover national level subjects, such as funding streams, opportunities and challenges, the need to relentlessly upskill and how the Life Science sector has a key role in the future of the region.

Another session is going to be on Pharma Manufacturing, which will feature prominent pharma manufacturers from the region, and will explore how the North East provides both a strong base to operate from, and an attractive environment for Pharma Manufacturing.

There is a challenge we all face, and one that is very important to our sector: ageing, the challenges of our ageing population and the opportunities that ongoing research present for the Life Sciences community.

The final key theme we will be exploring is an area that the region is particularly strong in, and that is clinical research and translation. In this session we will explore areas of research and how they are being utilised by business, universities and the NHS, and how this is happening very effectively here in the North East.

I hope you agree that this is an exciting and far reaching programme and represents great value for the attendee and exhibitor. There is a tremendous amount of interconnectivity throughout this agenda, with an interaction between the themes that make BioFocus a very current and unique event, and it is all happening here in the North East, which is why Bionow and the North East LEP are very excited about this event.  BioFocus provides an excellent opportunity to showcase the North East, the region’s vibrant Life Science sector, and how this powerful ecosystem continues to deliver new opportunities for renewal and development.

The countdown continues – we are now less than two months away from BioFocus, and my next blog will contain details of the speakers.

I look forward to meeting you on the 3rd July.

All the best

Geoff

Dr Geoff Davison, Chief Executive of Bionow and organiser of the BioFocus Conference

Register here for the BioFocus Conference.