The UK is at the heart of the European commercial bioscience sector. More exciting, small, fast-growing bioscience companies are started here than in any other country outside the USA.
Placements in small companies can expose students to cutting-edge techniques, allowing them to work on emerging products such as innovative new drugs or diagnostic tools. They often give students a chance to learn both laboratory and commercial skills relevant to biosciences.
Many students on placements in smaller companies report that they were given significant responsibility as they become an important member of a small, dedicated team.
Around half of the UK’s emerging bioscience companies are based in specialist bio-incubators. These typically provide small emerging companies with affordable but high quality laboratory space, office facilities and meeting rooms. Bio-incubators typically house between five and 50 different firms; the firms pay rent to the bio-incubator and often share resources such as equipment and staff to save money and pool expertise.
The bio-incubator management team sometimes also provides commercial expertise to help guide the small businesses towards successful market entry.
Many bio-incubators are owned by universities which are keen to encourage interactions between university researchers and bioscience firms as well as to have a base for new companies formed by university employees.
Many companies based in bio-incubators are ‘wet lab’ firms focused on novel laboratory-based research; others are consultancy firms, e.g. experts in particular areas of science such as bio-processing; and in others the bio-incubator is a ‘virtual’ facility where companies use it as a postal address and a meeting place while they are based elsewhere, e.g. clinical trials professionals working from home.
There are more than 20 bio-incubators in the UK, often close to major research universities in places such as London, Cambridge, Nottingham, Norwich, Sheffield and Manchester.