Capitalising on the COVID-19 pandemic to build the next generation of British scientists

It is well known that crises often spark an interest and a sense of duty to tackle their root causes in those who live through them. It is also well known that Britain is a centre of technological and scientific innovation, but skills shortages nevertheless exist.

In January 2019, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) warned that Britain faced falling behind the rest of Europe in the numbers of students studying STEM degrees focussed on ‚’discovering the advanced treatments and technologies of the future‚’. They warned that that ‚’these highly-skilled scientific roles ‚’ vital to the UK‚’s successful pharmaceutical and biotech sectors ‚’ could move to other parts of the world if the situation is not addressed as a matter of urgency‚’.

Taking into account the UK‚’s newly found sovereignty amidst a global pandemic affecting millions, there is a time-bounded opportunity to assure Britain‚’s reputation as a global science power for future generations. This could be achieved by harnessing the extant, heightened awareness of science-related topics such as immunology and virology in our young people and promoting them as viable, meaningful career paths.

HMG should invest in these areas and, alongside industry, explore initiatives such as bursaries, scholarships and apprenticeships in the areas of epidemiology, immunology, virology and related disciplines. The initiatives should target secondary school students and those entering further and higher education. The ideal end result would be to spark interest in young people with a sense of duty through their own experience of the COVID pandemic, drawing them into academia to develop cutting-edge skills and pioneer future work, thereby guaranteeing the UK‚’s future continued expertise in these areas. Such initiatives could address a significant, widely discussed skills shortage whilst simultaneously working to consolidate Britain‚’s reputation as a global science power.




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