NextGen Life Sciences Supper Club – Skills the industry needs today to build for tomorrow

On 28 May 2014, the Academy helped to convene a Supper Club to explore the best ways early career researchers can make an impact in tomorrow’s life sciences industry. The event was organised by Chris Molloy (RSA Consulting), Dr Melanie Lee CBE FMedSci (NightstaRx) and Dr Yari Fontebasso (The Institute of Cancer Research), and was attended by early career researchers and a cross section of industry representatives.

The meeting stemmed from concerns expressed by early career non-clinical post-docs that there is little direction and information available to them about their various options once they finish their first or second post-doctoral contract, particularly at a time when the (bio)pharmaceutical industry is undergoing a period of rapid and profound transformation.

At the meeting, experts shared their experiences of careers in academia and their transition into industry, and provided advice about how the next generation of talented scientists can shape the future of this industry. In turn, participants were keen to learn more about how to bridge the gap between academia and industry – in terms of employment and collaboration opportunities – and how to better provide learning and development opportunities in academia to support researchers with their career ambitions in industry.

Key aspects for career progression highlighted at the meeting included:

  • Taking responsibility – career opportunities are unlikely to arise without some hard work. Participants were advised to be proactive, inquisitive, self-confident, critical and motivated, and to seize every opportunity for career progression. They were also urged to listen to advice, broaden their skill base, and to be brave in their decision-making.
  • Training – an invaluable tool in gaining additional skills that are valued in industry. Courses can help identify an individual’s strengths to be promoted and weaknesses to be addressed. Participants felt that training programmes are not always valued in academia, which can be problematic for early career researchers seeking personal development.
  • Networking – essential for creating contacts that can help develop career prospects. Experts suggested that face-to-face interactions, where an individual’s experience and personality can more easily shine through, are likely to be more effective than the more impersonal online connections.
  • Not to hesitate – especially when it comes to applying for a job. Applicants are unlikely to fill all the criteria for a job application but this should not deter them if they have some of the most relevant skills. Employers are looking for potential, intelligence, character, enthusiasm, motivation and how a new member may integrate in the team.

Nurturing the next generation of scientists will be vital in ensuring that the UK life sciences ecosystem remains strong, vibrant and passionate, and that the UK remains one of the best places in the world to do research. Collaborations between academia and industry form an integral part of this ecosystem, and although participants recognised that more could be done to bridge the silos between the two sectors, they were relatively optimistic about the future of the life science sector in the UK.

The evening’s event was a clear sign of the desire of both academia and industry to engage with one another and participants called for more meetings of this kind to foster relationships between the two sectors.

Early career researchers interested in exploring a research career in industry are warmly invited to attend a career development event at the Academy of Medical Sciences on 17 July 2014. Speakers will represent pharmaceutical as well as biotechnology companies and will focus on ways that researchers can position themselves for success.

Download the meeting note.

View information about the Academy’s mentoring and career development work.

Download the Academy’s career development programme.

Find out more about the Academy’s work around linking academia, industry and the NHS

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