AstraZeneca cuts UK headcount and moves to Cambridge

In a further demonstration of the lure of the so-called golden triangle, pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca has announced plans to relocate its UK-based research and development activities from Cheshire to Cambridge.

March 19, 2013

The firm is aiming to “consolidate” its R&D activities in three global centres by 2016. A new £330 million facility, which will also serve as the firm’s new corporate headquarters, will be built in Cambridge.

The firm’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, described the city as a “world-renowned bioscience hotspot”, which also offered “strong links with London-based research institutions”.

“In a world where partnerships and collaborations drive medical progress, becoming an integral part of the Cambridge ecosystem offers compelling advantages for AstraZeneca, giving us easier access to leading-edge academic and industry networks, scientific talent and valuable partnering opportunities,” he said.

Concerns have previously been expressed that too much of the UK’s research activity is concentrated in the “golden triangle” of London, Cambridge and Oxford, to the detriment of other regions.

Mr Soriot described the investment in Cambridge as “a clear signal of AstraZeneca’s long-term commitment to the UK”.

“The Government’s Life Sciences Strategy and the meaningful policies they have put in place in recent years to encourage investment help make Britain an attractive location for biopharmaceutical research and development,” he said.

However, the restructuring will see the closure of the firm’s existing R&D facility at Alderley Park in Cheshire, with the loss of 2,200 jobs - only around 1,600 of which will be relocated to Cambridge.

Mr Soriot said the firm’s “extensive and close scientific collaborations” with universities in the north-west of England, such as Manchester, would “continue to play an important role in discovery work”.

David Willetts, minister for universities and science, pledged to work with AstraZeneca to ensure Alderley Park – which is in chancellor George Osborne’s constituency - had “a prosperous future”. He described the company’s investment in Cambridge as “a real vote of confidence in the UK life sciences sector”.

However, John Hardy, professor of neuroscience at University College London described AstraZeneca’s reduction of its UK headcount as “a terrible blow to the UK pharmaceutical industry” born of the company’s short-termism and “a hostile regulatory climate towards animal - especially rodent – work”. 

The firm’s move comes as the entire pharmaceutical industry struggles to maintain the pipeline of new drugs in the “post-blockbuster” age. In 2011 Pfizer announced the closure of its research facility at Sandwich in Kent.

The other AstraZeneca R&D facilities will be located in the US and Sweden.

paul.jump@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Worried man wiping forehead
Two academics explain how to beat some of the typical anxieties associated with a doctoral degree

Felipe Fernández-Armesto takes issue with a claim that the EU has been playing the sovereignty card in Brexit negotiations

John McEnroe arguing with umpire. Tennis

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman explain how to negotiate your annual performance and development review

Man throwing axes

UCU attacks plans to cut 171 posts, but university denies Brexit 'the reason'

Cricket player and umpire exchanging bribe

The need to accommodate foreign students undermines domestic practices, says Lincoln Allison, spying parallels between UK universities and global sports bodies such as Fifa