Brexit and the search for talent

Why the UK struggles




brexit_pharma

Brain drains and scientific talent

Richmond Pharmacology has published a briefing outlining current and future problems with European talent acquisition in the UK. Richmond Pharmacology firmly supports the recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee to install a skills-based migration system after Brexit.

However, the current proposals do not go far enough in ensuring the UK’s place in the global clinical trials market and wider life sciences sector is sufficiently protected. These markets face a unique set of challenges which can only be addressed by specific measures, which they have tried to tackle in the briefing.  

Brexit: a global leader with an international issue

The UK has long been a life sciences leader – bringing world-leading care to patients, and providing the tools for economic growth and scientific progress. One organization driving change is Richmond Pharmacology, the UK’s leading first-in-human CRO. With discussions ongoing between the EMA and the UK government, the future of the country as a global leader may be under threat. The recent political upheaval in the UK and EU has worried organizations, such as the NHS and CROs, who rely on highly-skilled workers from overseas – especially when clinical research skills are in such short supply.

If you're interested in this topic, why not check out our article on new NHS drug funding?

Each country wants the very best for its patients and retaining the skills of the most-talented clinical researchers is one such way to assure that. Unfortunately, the UK’s already strict migration policies are set to tighten yet further in the wake of the Brexit decision.

The main troubles with talent acquisition

There is an incredibly opaque system in place at present, with many applications to work in the UK denied without comment – despite the search focusing on only the top five per cent of scientific talent. With only 20,700 tier 2 visas (requiring an income of at least £50,000 per annum) every year, many promising younger researchers are passed over.  

Source: Unsplash

If companies were able to sponsor overseas workers, or a five-year work permit was introduced, then these issues could be alleviated somewhat. The axing of the graduate tier 1 visa has also limited the ability of low-income, well-educated to enter the country.

Political parties and a post-Brexit pipeline

All parties in the UK currently agree that the need for able researchers and scientists must be carefully-balanced against public opinions on immigration. Richmond Pharmacology believes that a collaborative approach is needed to square the circle and move the burden of talent from overseas to the UK. The country has the potential to produce and nurture enough scientific staff to meet demand, but this long-term goal does need to be offset by the short- and mid-term needs in the sector.

A sustainable post-Brexit policy

Richmond Pharmacology has posited a four-step program for sustaining long-term skills acquisition and retention in the post-Brexit UK. The plan hinges on the following tenets:

  1. The reduction of immigration controls, focusing on the removal of the salary and quota caps;
  2. Uniting academics with industry bodies to better assess future needs;
  3. Gradually increasing immigration controls as the UK produces more home-grown talent; and
  4. Identify the point at which the majority of highly-skilled workers will be sourced from the UK.

With this plan, Richmond Pharmacology hopes that the public, the government, the pharmaceutical industry, and CROs can all feel secure to a certain degree, in an uncertain future.

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