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Universities aid regional biopharmaceutical industry – University of Reading

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Universities aid regional biopharmaceutical industry

Release Date 14 October 2009

In this tough economic climate, the Universities of Reading and Surrey are delighted to have attracted government funding to provide much needed support to pharmaceutical companies and recent graduates.

This October, 20 new highly-skilled graduate interns interested in careers in biopharma are beginning work in selected companies across the region. They are part of a £1.3 million project to address the immediate and long-term skills and knowledge needs of the biopharmaceutical industry in the South-East. The scheme is jointly funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England's Economic Challenge Investment Fund (ECIF), the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) and the two Universities.

The 11-month internships are intended to develop and retain skilled staff within the UK biopharma industry. They will support companies of all sizes in moving forward with projects in a time of downsizing, recruitment freezes and challenging economic conditions. Interns gain invaluable industrial experience, skills and knowledge in areas of key interest to the industry itself.

Sam Heywood, Principal Scientist at Protein Expression and Purification, UCB - New Medicines, said : "The ECIF project being run out of the Universities of Reading and Surrey aims to identify what these missing core skills are, and find a way to teach them during undergraduate studies. This will help recent graduates find employment, as they will have the skill sets the industry desires. It will also provide industry with more trained graduates to hire from."

The Universities have used their expertise of working with the industry to create targeted opportunities for employees, the recently unemployed and graduates facing a depleted job market, particularly in areas the industry has identified as high priority. The interns will develop valuable new knowledge and skills that will enable them to make a real difference to the companies in which they are training.

The academic input from the Universities makes these internships more than an industrial placement. The two Universities will complement the interns' industrial experience with specialist education and training from dedicated project and academic staff. Each intern will also benefit from a university-based mentor.

Naomi Osborne, who is beginning work as an intern at ThermoFisher Scientific said: "The project is an excellent opportunity for me to develop my practical skills and gain relevant experience at the host company, whilst the universities will help me build on my strengths and work on my weaknesses. This training and support will undoubtedly improve my chances of getting a job within the biopharma industry in a year's time, something I am extremely grateful for."

The project has also employed four Industry Liaison and Internship Fellows, who will facilitate the relationship between graduates, industrial hosts and the two universities, as well as manage the interns' industrial and university experience. The Fellows will also help develop and deliver a CPD (Continuous Professional Development) programme in response to industry's needs, including specialist and generic skills development.

In the long term, the project will allow the Universities and their industrial partners to learn more about how graduates can be helped to manage the transition from university to work in biopharma and to consider how this transition can be improved for future graduates.

The range of internships is very broad. As well as roles which draw on graduates from the core life science disciplines – such as work on novel antibiotics, electrophysiology, or industrial microbes for the production of renewable chemicals – there are opportunities for applicants with backgrounds in bioinformatics and mathematics – such as the development of mathematical 'systems pharmacology' models. The companies involved include such household names as Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline as well as a number of SMEs.

ENDS

For all University of Reading media enquiries please contact James Barr, Press Officer tel 0118 378 7115/07788 714376 or email j.w.barr@reading.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

The project is a joint project with the University of Surrey and was awarded £689,185 under the Economic Challenge Investment Fund (ECIF). ECIF was set up by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to help universities respond rapidly to meet the immediate needs of the economy during the current recession. The South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) offered match funding of £344,593 and the universities will each contribute £172, 296, bringing the value of the 18-month project to £1,378,371.

It offers clear, immediate benefits to participating business, universities and to current and prospective employees. The project is the first step in setting up a Centre for Knowledge and Skills Exchange for the Biopharma Industry in the South East, enabling ongoing dialogue and collaboration. Both universities look forward to a highly successful partnership that will bring huge benefits to the biopharma industry now, and in the future.

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