Skills investment in science sector SMEs is building competitive advantage

DATE 15th September 2015


Science industry SMEs’ take-up of training and development through the Science Industry Partnership (SIP) is having a high impact on business performance, according to the latest figures.

Science industry SMEs’ take-up of training and development through the Science Industry Partnership (SIP) is having a high impact on business performance, according to the latest figures.

The training evaluation survey* conducted by Cogent Skills, strategic skills body for the science industries, among learners who accessed co-funded learning from the SIP’s SME-focused “Skills for Growth” programme reveals where training is having the greatest effect on business. The companies involved include those in growth areas such as nanotechnology, synthetic chemistry and anaerobic digestion. Additional areas include Pharmaceutical, Clinical Research Organisations (CRO), Biotechnology and Formulation.

Seventy-three per cent of learners registered a high or very high training impact on addressing challenges in their roles while almost 70% (69%) said that learning input had changed the way they worked. The training delivered either a high or a very high impact on team working and service delivery for 66% and 65% of SMEs respectively.

While more than 50% of SMEs polled said the training programmes resulted in a high or very high impact on cross-skilling (59%) and sustainable business growth (53%), those seeing a moderate or high impact on the challenges in their business totalled 63%. Half of SMEs witnessed an increase in business as a consequence of training via the SIP.

Bob Redfern, managing director of High Force Research – one of the SMEs involved in the SIP training – said:

“As a chemical R&D company whose staff has grown to meet strong demand from customers in Life Sciences, Electronics and Advanced Materials, the Science Industry Partnership’s ‘Skills for Growth’ programme has helped us identify the skills we need to support business growth. We aim to use the SIP Skills for Growth programme for training of scientific personnel not only in technical matters but also in people skills.”

The most popular areas of training undertaken by SMEs in year one of the SIP – constituting more than £150,000 of co-funded skills investment and 350 learners – focused on market and data analysis (42% of SMEs) alongside leadership and personnel management (31% of SMEs). The next most sought-after training among SMEs covered regulation (9%), commercialisation (5%) and laboratory practice and formulation (3%).

SME employers and employees have also welcomed the opportunity to use SIP training solutions quality assured against criteria developed by science industry SMEs, with 100% of the learners saying that they would recommend the SIP training to other companies and 100% of learners also stating that their understanding had improved as a result of the training.

Kate Griffiths, Skills for Growth Manager at Cogent Skills said: “SMEs employing graduates need them to take on more supervisory tasks at an early stage in their career, therefore the leadership and personnel management training is helping them to embrace more responsible job roles and become next generation leaders. And the popularity of the analysis training courses reflects the new methods of statistical analysis in use for clinical trials.”

“The programme has been widely adopted by the science SME community and it’s fantastic to see people returning to Cogent Skills for additional training and support. The feedback we are getting shows that the style of training is a very important factor. For instance, there is a clear application of the training on the business, it is high impact, short and has flexible delivery options – all important factors for SME managers.”

The momentum of SME training uptake in the first quarter of SIP year 2 (April-June 2015) has increased dramatically, with the number of learners already reaching 65% of the total numbers in SIP year 1.

SMEs have welcomed the newer training methods available through the SIP, with 86% noting a high or very high impact from the programme’s style and delivery. This has included how well the training applies to the industries, quality assurance of training providers based on SME requirements, availability of shorter duration courses and on-site training.

Note to editors:

*Training evaluation from among 74 SME learners who completed training under the Skills for Growth programme during the first year of the SIP (April 2014-April 2015).


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About Cogent Skills

Cogent Skills is the UK’s strategic body for skills in the science industries, working with sector employers to develop, design and deploy skills programmes and initiatives. With more than a decade’s experience in science industry skills, it is the expert delivery partner for the Science Industry Partnership (SIP) and works with the SIP to support liaison between industry and the Government departments responsible for skills development.