A Lesson in Life Sciences

Connecting the UK Life Sciences Ecosystem Enabling Access to Essential Technologies and Skills Facilitating Access to World-Class Industry Skills in R&D
A Lesson in Life Sciences

The UK life sciences sector is critical to the country’s health, wealth and resilience.

It is one of the great drivers of economic growth in the 21st century.

The life science sector contributes over £70 billion a year to the UK economy

It employs 240,000 people across the country

and 43.1% of turnover

Generates 38% of UK pharmaceutical output

In recent years, the North West has emerged as the most important region for the life sciences sector, generating 38% of all UK pharmaceutical output and 43.1% of turnover.
Critical to the UK’s future success in life sciences will be our ability to attract, recruit, train and retain the skilled workforce needed to continue to grow the sector.
But therein lies a problem...
In 2018, Medicine Discovery Catapult (MDC) published the State of the Discovery Nation report.
Our report explained in depth why the skills gap in life sciences is a serious barrier to the future growth of the UK drug discovery sector. Since then, although the ABPI has reported that skills gaps have started to narrow, some major shortages still prevail within the sector.

To address this challenge, and ensure the UK remains a global leader in drug discovery, MDC joined forces with the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (C&W LEP) for a school engagement programme.

The aim was to inspire the next generation of budding scientists to consider a career in life sciences.

The LEP provided a shortlist of five schools for MDC to visit and deliver a series of interactive lessons on drug discovery to pupils.

The initiative was announced to support British Science Week in March 2022, and saw MDC sign up to the C&W LEP’s Pledge Partnership.
Trevor Langston

Pledge Lead

Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership

“The Cheshire and Warrington Pledge is all about putting employers at the heart of inspiring the next generation of young people. Life science is a large sector within our local economy. We are pleased to have supported Medicines Discovery Catapult to inspire the young people in our schools by talking about the great careers available locally.”

To enable the programme to take place, scientists from the MDC discovery team volunteered to deliver lessons to pupils.

Through interactive content, they were able to communicate four key messages:


Science is for everyone


There are many routes into science


Drug discovery needs lots of different skills


There is a thriving life science scene in the North West

The engagement programme was a success with teachers and pupils alike. The feedback from MDC’s scientists and the schools was extremely positive.
Dr Juliana Maynard

Head of Translational Imaging

Medicines Discovery Catapult

“It was wonderful to speak to the students at Ellesmere Port about careers in science. The students were so enthusiastic and understood the impact they could have, making a difference to patients’ lives. Sharing and enabling communication across the North West of the innovative work happening here at MDC is imperative. The future success of the UK in life sciences relies on our future talent, and it is very important we show how rewarding it is to work in this sector.”

Dr Malcolm Haddrick

Lead Scientist

Medicines Discovery Catapult

“I have worked in medicines discovery for my entire career, so I enjoyed talking to the students at Hartford High School about what a rewarding job it is. There are so many options for a career in science, and I was very pleased to hear from some of the students that it is a path they are considering!”

Charlotte Casewell

Vice Principal and Careers Lead

Sir William Stanier School

“It was fantastic to see the students engaging with current research methodologies and to be aspirational about a career in science and where it could take them.”

Five schools visited

Over 120 pupils involved

Interactive lessons

Ask a Scientist Q&As

Inspiring young people

Targeted pupils aged 11-18

To widen the reach of the engagement programme even further, we published the story on our website and promoted each visit on social media.
MDC also created a video lesson of the programme to inspire thousands of youngsters across all the region’s schools to consider a career in life sciences.

The school engagement programme has cemented the partnership between MDC and the C&W LEP.

The results of our endeavours had a positive impact in helping to bridge the skills gap in the life sciences sector.

Furthermore, it engaged and informed stakeholders, helping to direct much-needed resources to the sector, providing a critical reference point for industry and academia, and ensuring government support is strategically deployed to meet evolving skills demands for the UK life sciences sector.

The experience has also made us even more determined to support young people across local communities, using other events and resources to keep the conversation relevant and inspiring. Because a lesson in life sciences today could have a real impact on this vital sector for generations to come.