‘Building a Future for Science and Technology’ (https://ridge.co.uk/insights/building-a-future-for-science-technology/), by Ridge and Partners, the multi-discipline property and construction consultancy, suggests a key driver of this discontent is the government’s lack of understanding of the sectors’ needs. The government’s limit on employing overseas talent is a key example of this, with the policy adversely affecting 27% of the companies interviewed. The fact there is no science minister in Liz Truss’s cabinet further illustrates a lack of government interest in the sector.
The 103 science and technology companies studied for the Ridge report also cite problems at a local level, raising issues for local authorities, city planners, and science parks.
- A fifth complain their current premises are not accessible by public transport
- A further 16% say wider transport links aren’t good enough to attract the talent they need
- A lack of affordable local housing is a problem for over one in five (22%)
- 49% are not sure their current premises will meet their future needs; this rises to 78% among smaller companies
- A fifth feel their premises are not attractive or environmentally sustainable enough, a key consideration as 42% are struggling to meet the eco/environmental demands of employees
These issues are impacting on recruitment and therefore growth. Over a third are struggling to fill crucial support roles such as lab technicians and admin staff, who are massively affected by local housing costs. Meanwhile, almost half (48%) have difficulty filling more senior roles. These issues have become so pronounced that almost a third (31%) report they need to be nearer a larger pool of talent. For many, that may involve moving overseas.
Liz Sparrow, Partner, Science and Tech Lead at Ridge and Partners, comments: “There’s no lack of ambition or opportunity for growth within the science and tech communities. Indeed, the companies we studied expect to grow by 52% over the next three years. But they need to be in the right environments to grow in this way – that means places with the right infrastructure, transport links, housing, and premises to attract the partners, suppliers, and talent they need.”
Ridge’s research also highlights how highly dependent small and large science and technology-based businesses are on each other. That’s why 31% want to be located nearer to other science/tech businesses and almost one in four (24%) want to be closer to major academic institutions. 30% feel their growth plans are being limited by their lack of available suppliers. Operating in almost a science or tech ecosystem makes collaboration and innovation easier and creates a greater magnet for the specialist talent and suppliers the sectors collectively need.
Liz Sparrow, continued, “Policymakers cannot afford to simply focus on the needs of big players. Diversity in science or tech community clusters – be this in terms of company size or typology – is key if all are to thrive. Every company which exits these diverse ecosystems and relocates overseas, or simply fails to thrive, weakens things for everyone else. To protect one we must plan for all.
“No single body can do this. Joined-up thinking is needed between the public and private sectors, between the UK’s government, its cities, regions, and science parks. Collaboration is key if we’re to create – and keep – the UK’s tech/science powerhouses.”
The Building a Future for Science and Technology Report is free to download – https://ridge.co.uk/insights/building-a-future-for-science-technology/
The research was conducted on behalf of Ridge and Partners by Censuswide, among 103 UK science and technology companies. Interviewees were all C-suite decision-makers drawn from a mix of companies in terms of their size and location.
For more information about the findings, please contact Energy PR Ridge@energypr.co.uk or call +44 (0) 1993 823 011