Recruitment into Life Sciences collapses, forecast for 2024 is to surge

Key findings include:
  • UK has 42.6% drop in scientific vacancies YOY, as MHRA delay clinical trial approvals
  • CRO’s marked the most extreme decrease in vacancies, down 55% on 2022
  • However given 2023 saw a four fold increase in clinical trial approval, forecast is positive
  •  Pfizer stands out amongst Big Pharma with a notable 39.7% increase

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Perhaps inevitably, the post-pandemic period has resulted in a hangover for the sector, as the combination of quantitative tightening leading to a slowdown in funding for emerging biotechnology firms, combined with the delays associated with getting new trials approved over the period, has meant that in recruitment terms, 2023 really was a slow year. Indeed, vacancies in 2023 were 42.6% lower than in 2022. This according to the latest UK Life Sciences Labour Market Trends report by Cpl and market data analysts Vacancysoft

Yvette Cleland – CEO – CPL – comments:

“We are delighted to be partnering with Vacancysoft to analyse the latest trends in Clinical recruitment. POST COVID-19, the sector continues to grow from strength to strength. To find out more about what is happening in the industry, please do feel free to get in touch.”

CRO Recruitment Plummets Amid Pandemic

The pandemic’s impact on clinical trial approvals has led to a pronounced decline in recruitment within CROs, resulting in a staggering 55% decrease in vacancies compared to 2022. Furthermore, when comparing 2021 to 2023, vacancies have plummeted by 64% in this sector. Biotechnology has also experienced a substantial drop in recruitment, with volumes down by 47% from 2022, while Big Pharma, although more resilient, still saw a significant year-on-year decrease of 29% in vacancies.

R&D Dominates Recruitment Landscape Despite Declining Vacancies

In the realm of life sciences, research and development (R&D) positions have comprised the largest portion of scientific role recruitments, encompassing 30.5% of the total, though experiencing a decrease from the peak of 34.4% in 2022. Likewise, clinical roles have seen a substantial decline, with vacancies decreasing by 49.6% compared to 2022, and Quality Assurance positions have similarly dropped by 39.8%. Conversely, Medical Affairs & Information roles have encountered the least impact, with vacancies decreasing by 17.4% amidst this recruitment downturn.

Regional variations across the Golden Triangle, as London performs best

In 2023, the biotechnology sector in Cambridge and the East of England experienced a notable decline of 54.6% compared to the previous year, highlighting the significant impact of quantitative tightening on regional recruitment. Likewise, the South East, the largest region, saw a substantial 45% decrease in recruitment, while London, though the least affected of the Golden Triangle points, still experienced a significant drop of 34.8% in vacancies.  

Pfizer and PCI Pharma Services Lead Industry Surge in Hiring

Pfizer stands out amongst Big Pharma with a notable 39.7% uptick in volumes, despite recent profit warnings and planned staff reductions at their Sandwich plant. Additionally, PCI Pharma Services emerges as a top performer with a remarkable 76.5% increase, marking them as a significant player in terms of vacancy volumes. This surge in hiring within the UK reflects a broader global expansion trend, positioning both Pfizer and PCI Pharma Services as key players to watch in 2024.


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