The Savills Blog

Pharmaceutical firms fixed on Europe's Gen Y talent hubs

Research lab

In the new technological age pharmaceutical companies are evolving from primarily developing big blockbuster 'save all' drugs towards more personalised and targeted products.This has resulted in pharmaceutical companies outsourcing and collaborating on their clinical trials and research with the relevant expertise within each sector of the industry.

Thus, a clear trend has emerged of pharmaceutical firms, especially immune-oncology pharmaceutical companies, locating themselves within cities where research, education facilities, hospitals and university student clusters are abundant. Companies can no longer survive in isolation, especially as one sixth of employees originate from research and development backgrounds and potential clients increasingly wish to be an active participator of the pharmaceuticals process.

This trend is evident in Scandinavia, particularly Denmark which ranks first globally for the number of clinical trials per capita. It is home to the Medicon Valley cluster, shared between eastern Denmark and across the border into southern Sweden, comprising four life sciences universities with 50,000 students, and 22 hospitals, 11 of which are linked to universities. Consequently over 150 biotech companies and 200 med-tech companies are located in this city, according to consultants Copenhagen Capacity.

Increasingly the workers appearing in these companies’ managerial positions are from the Millennial generation, who are beginning to overtake Generation X workers. The Millennial workforce tends to have a different set of demands regarding their work-life balance, amenities and cost of living. Savills recently published research study What Workers Want found that more and more employees in the UK are citing ‘length of commute to work’ as the most critical work-life factor with over 80 per cent of of respondents saying it is important or very important to them. It's a trend that is likely to be replicate among their counterparts across Europe.

Therefore pharmaceuticals are moving towards growing their workforce in locations such as Berlin and Copenhagen which are proving attractive to this type of worker. In the case of the latter, Denmark comes first in the OECD better life index in 2015 due to the countries robust support system and flexible working conditions.

However, the cost of living and working in some of these cities has risen significantly in recent years. Berlin (the capital of the pharmaceutical industry in Germany) has seen its accommodation costs per person per year rise by 3 per cent in the last year and by 20 per cent over the past five years to $27,700, ranking it 18th in the Savills Live/Work cost rankings, although it is still much cheaper than other locations such as London, Paris and New York.

At the moment, this does not seem to be deterring the professionals who form the bedrock of pharmaceutical companies’ recruitment strategies and so these cities are likely to remain hubs for the industry for the foreseeable future.

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