This article was originally written by Mike Nesbit for Recruiter Magazine
Post Brexit Pharma recruiters could find themselves scratching around an ever-decreasing talent pool, with fewer clients and smaller fees in a post-Brexit UK, after around £8.5bn of EU funding allocated to the UK sector was jeopardised by the decision to leave the trading bloc.
The pharmaceuticals industry employs more than 70,000 people in the UK but does the loss of EU funding signal bad news for pharmaceutical recruiters or will they turn their eyes across the Atlantic where the sector is thriving?
Yvette Cleland, chief executive of Clinical Professionals, believes the pharmaceutical industry in the UK is robust enough to survive because of the need for its product but also because it came through the global financial recession of 2008 relatively unscathed.
“In terms of the professional staffing sector we have been fishing around in a pool of declining talent for years," Cleland told Recruiter. She adds that now the country has decided to leave the EU, “the staffing industry needs to continue innovating and support the industries that it relies on for work”.
Currently the UK receives more funding from the European Research Council than any other EU country, supporting university-based research. As well as UK researchers potentially losing their priority access to scientific facilities across Europe, there is also a risk that the single marketing authorisation pharmaceuticals receive from the EU may be lost and costly hurdles put in place.
While shocked at the result of the referendum Cleland believes “we can still continue to develop a phenomenal business in the EU and the rest of the world”, especially the US where the sector represents 40% of the global market.
Soon to be free of the shackles of EU legislation, Cleland suggests that the UK is now in a position to negotiate a deal with Washington over freedom of movement for highly skilled labour. “We find as a staffing business that we are actually doing more and more business with the US, so I am hoping that post-Brexit we can perhaps strike a deal with the US,” she says.
But, she adds, all is not lost with Europe.
“The UK set itself out to be the third largest biotech hub outside of San Francisco and Boston and, if it can somehow negotiate to remain within EMA (European Medicines Agency), which approves drugs for member states, this would be a great starting point and would be of great advantage to British patients,” she added.
“Our continental colleagues also have great respect for our regulatory body MHRA [Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency] and would wish this, I believe, to be retained as part of the regulatory process. This body actually has immense respect on a global scale.”
Cheshire-based Carrot Pharma Recruitment, which has been recruiting within the pharmaceutical, healthcare and biotech industries for 10 years, is equally relaxed about the Brexit result and believes that any withdrawal of funds from the EU will probably be offset by the US market.
“The pharma industry is heavily driven by the US markets where around 50% of global revenues are generated, so it’s the performance of the US economy which is the massive driver of this industry,” said managing director Martin Anderson.
“So long as the pharma manufacturers continue to trade confidently, then the rest of the industry will continue to move and we as recruiters to that industry should be relatively unaffected.”
But until Article 50 is triggered and exit talks have taken place, freedom of movement will stay in place, with EU member state nationals continuing to have the right to work in the UK and British nationals in Europe. It is also likely that provisions enabling EU nationals currently living in the UK will remain here and likewise for British nationals in the EU.
Speaking about EU funding, one pharmaceutical analyst told The Daily Telegraph that it “depends on what an independent UK government chooses to do. It may choose to substitute EU funding with its own”.
Another added: “The best science attracts the best funding and I don’t see any reason why the best scientists would not still be attracted to best universities and research centres in the world, many of which are in the UK.”