As an industry that has seen unprecedented growth, investment, and interest even during the uncertainty of the pandemic, life sciences has certainly seen plenty of success.
Though figures such as the €15.5bn of venture capital (VC) funding into life sciences companies over the past five years in Europe are a prime example of industry growth, there are multiple factors that may present challenges to further growth.
For life sciences professionals, the digital future, new technology, the societal representation of their organisation, and global competition are all challenges that may inhibit business growth.
So, how can life sciences professionals support challenges for business growth, and what challenges are they facing?
The digital future
Embracing the digital future means achieving business objectives for life sciences organisations, but for organisations that struggle to adapt, this can be a potential barrier to growth.
Some of the changes brought by the pandemic include lean automation and design, remote analytics-enabled clinical trials at scale, agile campaign management to respond to customer needs, and hybrid working teams.
Many of these changes are examples of the rapid digitalisation that was expected before, but accelerated by, the pandemic.
Companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Amazon and Google are cited as drivers of digitalisation in life sciences, encouraging non-conventional methods that enable life sciences companies to keep up.
For life sciences professionals, this emphasises the importance of re-skilling and additional training to fully unlock the potential that digitalisation can offer – without it, digitalisation will merely seem to diminish the competitive edge of companies that can’t keep up.
If the management of a life sciences company recognises the importance of embracing digitalisation, showing a commitment to implementing changes, then life sciences professionals can align with a digital strategy, so long as they have the necessary competencies.
Hand-in-hand with the digital future of life sciences, new technology has been on the horizon for the industry for a few years.
An example of these emerging technologies is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) platforms that possess the ability to alert specialists of possible stroke or haemorrhage in CT scans at speeds 150x faster than trained, experienced radiologists.
Though these technologies may be assumed to be a barrier purely for the removal of the human element, many are simply tools to be used by life sciences professionals.
Take data collection as a pertinent example – much of the skills shortages in life sciences revolve around data skills – though technology can assist with data collection, the critical thinking and ability that goes into the analysis of the data relies on highly skilled life sciences professionals.
Additionally, professionals with these skillsets can benefit from enhanced analytics, automation and the efficiency of cloud software to increase their productivity and their ability to collaborate.
A life sciences business requires professionals that are skilled with the use of technology or analysis of data in order to leverage it – which is why having data-based and technology-driven competency is so integral to growth.
An additional area of concern might be the regulations that new technology may involve, and the minefield of compliance that comes with rapid advancements in technology.
This requires a more aligned approach from companies and inspectors in order to support the challenges brought by technology, data, and processes.
Talent shortages and company reputation
Rising global competition and talent shortages aren’t new concepts to life sciences, yet the demand has increased due to the pandemic.
This barrier comes down to the notion that more organisations are seeking highly-skilled life sciences professionals than there are qualified candidates for these vacancies.
In the biotech sector, skills around process analytical technology (PAT), AI, engineering, data analytics and process development are in high demand.
Life sciences professionals, particularly those who are involved in the recruitment and onboarding process, will be well placed to look for these skills to ensure that qualified candidates can encourage growth and productivity.
This is a huge barrier to growth, but life sciences professionals can assist with the issue of talent shortages through company reputation in terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR), diversity and inclusion initiatives, and a strong stance on societal and environmental issues.
A Deloitte report predicted that life sciences companies would begin adopting principles of circularity (reduce, reuse, recycle) and develop common metrics to ensure trust in their progress towards sustainability.
Life sciences professionals drive these changes by demand, with many companies beginning to understand the importance of disclosing their sustainability practices, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and CSR reports on social media and potential candidates.
Companies that view these elements of their practices and processes as unimportant may be left struggling to recruit and retain.
Life sciences professionals have a huge impact on the way that the industry views the importance of these elements, as skills shortages and difficulties in recruitment make employee retention higher on the agenda.
For example, the average costs of staff turnover can range from 33% of an employee’s salary all the way up to 213% for highly-educated executive positions – life sciences organisations cannot afford to sacrifice their growth by ignoring the importance of employee retention and the cost of excess turnover.
With periods of rapid growth, there is always the potential to hit challenges that inhibit it.
Life sciences professionals are uniquely placed to support challenges for business growth through their skillsets, drive for greater social and environmental responsibility, and increase developing technology uptake.
Many of these challenges will develop in the long-term as the life sciences industry evolves in the wake of the pandemic, and it is up to not only the life sciences organisations, but also the professionals, to guide this change positively rather than detrimentally.
As long as these challenges are planned and accounted for, life sciences can continue to innovate and grow, and life sciences professionals can continue to find pride, satisfaction and development in their job.
If you’d like to find out about exciting opportunities in the life sciences sector, get in touch today.