Today the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced that it will be opening a £330 million R&D facility in Cambridge. That AZ are investing heavily in their UK R&D facilities is great news, as is that Cambridge is seen as such a vital location for them to commit to it as one of their three global R&D hubs (the others in Maryland, US, and Mölndal, Sweden). Access to academic excellence, bespoke resources and global networks are all things that the UK can deliver, and that Cambridge prides itself upon.
However, AstraZeneca also announced at the same time that the UK will lose up to 1000 jobs as a result of this refocusing of R&D resources, with 700 jobs lost altogether, and up to 300 being relocated. Research and development are important to the UK economy not only for the ideas and products generated, but for the employment that they provide, and it is disappointing to see an R&D giant scaling back R&D jobs. Disappointing also for one Rt Hon George Osborne MP, whose constituency will be the victim of job losses and relocations from Alderley Park where AZ currently houses large parts of its R&D.
The concentration of R&D ‘down south’ was borne out in recent Office of National Statistics data showing that the large part of R&D is performed in the south east and east of England (46.9% of business R&D). In the same week that funds are made available ‘post-Heseltine’ to stimulate regional growth, the relocation from the north west to Cambridge might not seem entirely positive.
Good for Cambridge, bad for Cheshire. Good that AZ is committing to R&D in the UK, bad that this leads to unemployment for some in the R&D sector. We’ll be watching to see how this plays out.