Golden Triangle – UK Life Sciences Labour Market Trends, March 2024

UK 2022 Review: Scientific vacancies in the Golden Triangle behind 2021 levels with Cambridge leading the way —new report with Cpl Life Sciences

Key findings include:
  • Hiring levels across Golden Triangle cities were down 9.1% year-on-year 
  • New scientific jobs in Pharmaceuticals were bigger than across Biotech and CROs
  • R&D was the most popular skill in demand with the largest job volumes across London, Oxford, and Cambridge
  • Syneos Health, PSI and AstraZeneca were the most active recruiters in 2022


According to the latest Life Sciences Labour Market Trends report by CPL and market data analysts Vacancysoft , key recruitment trends show that in 2022, there were over 4,100 new scientific vacancies published in the ‘Golden Triangle’ (Cambridge, London and Oxford). This translates to a slight decrease from 2021, when there were over 4,500 jobs, resulting in a year-on-year fall of 9.1%.

A closer look at the Golden Triangle shows that Cambridge boasted the highest number of vacancies between 2020 and 2022 (almost 5,400), closing the year with over 2,000 new jobs. Meanwhile, Cambridge accounted for almost half (49.1%) of scientific vacancies in 2022. However, this constituted a slight year-on-year drop of 5.6% from 2021. London (10.7%) and Oxford (19.8%) posted bigger year-on-year falls.

Sarah Goddard, Switzerland Country Director at Cpl Life Sciences, commented:

“The Science and Technology Framework launched by the UK government is a strategic vision and set of goals designed to help the country achieve ten key actions by 2030. The vision of UK research and development (R&D) investment matching the scale of a science and technology superpower is compelling. Delivery under the Science and Technology Framework would look to catalyse private sector R&D and boost the innovation activity of firms leading to UK economic growth. To achieve this, the UK must attract the best talent from around the world, build a skilled workforce for tomorrow’s industries, provide infrastructure and investment to bring technologies to the market, and encourage a regulatory environment that supports innovation. It can only be hoped this is an enduring framework that will be executed well and see us through to success by 2030”.

Scientific jobs in Pharmaceuticals topped the table despite a decrease

At over 1,500 scientific vacancies, Pharmaceuticals made up the bulk of the new jobs in the Golden Triangle. Despite having the biggest volumes, this failed to better 2021 totals, equating to a year-on-year decrease of 10.7% compared to 2021. 

Contract research organisations (CROs) was the sector taking the runner-up spot, posting over 1,300 jobs in 2022. This was followed by Biotech with numbers over 1,100. However, all sectors experienced falls in relation to 2021 volumes: CRO (10.3%) and Biotech (5.2%).

R&D most wanted skill in Cambridge and Oxford, Clinical dominates in London 

In terms of the most in-demand skills across the life sciences industry in Cambridge, London and Oxford, the most significant sector in the past year was R&D, which published almost 1,500 vacancies across all three cities. This specialism topped the table in Cambridge (14.5%), reaching the fastest yearly rise in that city, and also in Oxford (0.6%), where it experienced a modest growth. Meanwhile, Clinical was the dominant market specialism in London, despite a small dip (5.2%).

However, the fastest growth year-on-year in London and Oxford was seen in Quality Assurance (9.6% and 3.2% respectively).

Syneos Health, PSI and AstraZeneca were the busiest recruiters in 2022

When looking at the top firms hiring scientific talent, Syneos Health was the busiest recruiter of scientists in London during 2022, publishing 588 new vacancies (52.7% year-on-year in comparison to 2021). This was also the fastest-growing firm in the city.

Meanwhile, in Oxford, PSI topped the table as the busiest firm. However, with fewer than 100 jobs posted, volumes were down in 2022, representing a dip of 46.8% compared to 2021. Similarly, recruitment at AstraZeneca was up 9% year-on-year in Cambridge, achieving over 800 new vacancies. While this represented a surge in job volumes, it was a modest increase compared to 2021 (up 55%).

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