How to change lives with your IT skills

James Milligan - Global Chief Technology Officer at Hays

The life sciences industry has, unsurprisingly, grown exponentially during 2020 because of the impact that COVID-19 has had on the sector. The demand for IT skills has also increased within life sciences to support the industry to keep innovating, tracking and pursuing a vaccine to COVID-19, as well as other diseases and conditions.
These IT skills have been crucial in the development of the potentially promising vaccines developed so far but have a much bigger part still to play in the testing, monitoring and roll-out of these going forward into 2021.
The pandemic has only strengthened the role that technology plays in the life sciences sector, with the need to develop med-tech products and support structures capable of handling the growth in the area, now of paramount importance. But, how specifically can tech professionals be part of this journey?

The growing influence of tech in pharmaceutical hubs

Innovation and progression are just two of the ties that bind the tech and life sciences industries, with both constantly trying to pursue new ways of improving efficiency in processes and the quality of life for end-users. It makes sense that there is increasing co-operation between these two specialist areas.
For example, we are seeing more tech-focused innovation hubs developing across Europe, with cities like Barcelona, Amsterdam and Warsaw playing home to the next generation of extremely talented tech professionals. Within the life sciences industry, innovators are aware of these hubs and are tapping into these markets for tech professionals with the requisite skills to join a med-tech product’s journey from its start.
Now, multinational pharmaceutical companies are also looking to give opportunities to professionals within these tech communities, [like Boehringer in Barcelona. These global companies can offer tech professionals roles that are crucial to often life-saving products and systems, opportunities for progression and development, and packages that other industries would struggle to compete with due to the sector’s exponential growth. In 2018, the med-tech sector in Europe alone was worth €120 billion, a value that has only increased further due to the investment in the sector since COVID-19 impacted us all and is set to continue its growth in 2021 and beyond.

How are tech positions influencing the life sciences industry?

The influence of tech in the medical sector isn’t just limited to the development of med-tech innovations like VR’s use in surgery or in the 3D printing of artificial limbs, it impacts many other areas as well.
For example, with the explosion of data now available on patients, from more accessible cross-hospital records influenced by global migration patterns, to greater data being made more freely available on genomic profiles and in ancestry records, the industry has hit a tipping point when it comes to the adoption of blockchain. In 2018, 60% of pharmaceutical and life science professionals were found to be either using or experimenting with blockchain – compared with 22% asked in 2017. This increasing adoption of blockchain will create more opportunities for tech professionals to influence the medical supply chain, management of clinical trials and work with patient data. The latter of these areas will necessitate the need for additional security specialists as well, to protect this data in an ever-more data-conscious world.
More traditional tech roles like software developers, software architects and software engineers have long been in demand for global businesses that need to create networks for their teams to operate within. When COVID-19 first impacted these teams, there was immediate demand for professionals with Cloud experience, so to ensure that all research and processes could carry on across these multinational businesses, even when lockdown became a reality for most of them. As part of this transition, we have seen high demand for Scrum Masters to assist with this change and growth, as well as professionals experienced with Big Data to not only work with COVID-related information, but other trials and programmes as well.

Working with a purpose

Aside from the opportunity for a challenge and to get rewarded with great benefits packages and progression opportunities, perhaps the most valuable reward for candidates applying their skills in the life sciences industry is the role that they will play in benefitting general health and in mitigating the impact of some medical conditions.
In the short-term, this may be in the fight against COVID-19 but going forward it could be in playing a part in improving the quality of life for everyone.

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