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Life sciences

An overview

The life sciences sector relates to SMEs and large firms engaged in the application of biology and technology to improve human health. It features strongly in the local economy and is a major contributor to the county’s economic wellbeing. 

The sector essentially comprises five key sub sectors:

  • Core Biopharma  
  • Biopharma Service & Supply Chain
  • Core Med Tech
  • Med Tech Service & Supply Chain
  • Genomics

In 2022, there were 245 active life sciences businesses registered in the county, employing over 4,350 people in the Core Biopharma and Core Med Tech sectors and their associated supply chains.

In 2021, although relatively small in comparison to other sectors, life sciences generated at least £5.3bn of sales revenues for the Hertfordshire economy.

Source: Beauhurst

Core Biopharma & Biopharma Service and Supply Chain

The core Biopharma sector includes all businesses involved in developing and/or producing their own pharmaceutical products - from small, R&D focused biotechs to multinational Big Pharma. 

Within the core Biopharma sector, the county has significant capability at GSK’s R&D Hub in Stevenage and at its respiratory manufacturing plant at Ware. Roche UK has a significant presence in Welwyn Garden City near to Eisai’s EMEA Knowledge Centre in nearby Hatfield.  Most of this activity takes place within a 20-mile radius of Stevenage within the A1(M) transport corridor. 

The Biopharma service and supply sector comprises businesses that offer goods and services to Core Biopharma businesses including, for example, Contract Research and Manufacturing Organisations (CRMOs), and suppliers of consumables and reagents for R&D facilities. Significant among these is global CRMO, Pharmaron based at Hoddesdon. 

Official data from the Office for National Statistics suggests that there are 135 companies in the Biopharma cluster with 9 appearing in the top 25 Pharma in the UK. 3,100 people are employed within the sector and its associated service and supply chain.

Sources: ONS and Office for Lifescience Database 2019

Core Med Tech & Medtech service and supply

The Core Med Tech sector includes all companies whose primary business involves developing and producing Med Tech products, ranging from single-use consumables to complex hospital equipment, including Digital Health products.

More widely dispersed than the Core Biopharma sector, Hertfordshire is home to an array of Med Tech companies including Smith & Nephew (UK), Sartorius StedimGalvani Bioelectronic, Medtronic and Boston Scientific.

Med Tech service and supply businesses offer services to Core Med Tech firms including, for example, CRMOs, and suppliers of consumables and reagents for R&D facilities. The sector includes businesses involved in making and/or supplying Digital Health products for both hospitals and consumers including products such as hospital information systems and mobile medical devices and apps. Key businesses include Bio-Rad Laboratories, Iqvia Biotech (formerly Novella Clinical) and Tessella.

Official data from the Office for National Statistics suggests that there are 110 companies in the Med Tech and associated supply chain with 4 appearing in the top 30 Med Tech companies in the UK. Approximately 1,250 people are employed within the sector and its associated service and supply chain.

Source: ONS

Sector growth timeline

The inception

The role of ‘big pharma’ has been critical in the growth of life sciences in Hertfordshire. Major corporations like GSK, Roche, Eisai and Merck, Sharpe and Dohme (MSD) established manufacturing and R&D facilities in the area. MSD has since relocated to London, only to be replaced by global contract R&D company, Pharmaron. 


In 2008/09 – against a backdrop of an impending ‘patent cliff’ and the more general credit crunch – GSK began the development of an open innovation research campus adjacent to its medicines research centre in Stevenage. Signalling a major departure from standard science park models, the intention was that the campus should be developed in stages, creating an ecosystem in which companies could collaborate and share facilities and advice, access finance and enable early-stage companies to scale through the commercialisation of ideas.  


Completed in 2012, the Open Innovation campus operated by Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (SBC - a GSK/ Wellcome Trust joint venture), has evolved into the UK’s largest cell and gene therapy cluster, and the third largest globally. Instrumental in this evolutionary journey was a decision by the Cell Therapy Catapult to establish its Manufacturing Innovation Centre on the SBC campus.

Since 2017, the companies within the campus have attracted private equity investment in excess of £739m. By 2020, private equity investment in R&D activities linked to biotechnology was higher in Stevenage than for the clusters in Cambridge and London, and very close to the figure for Oxford.  The government’s Life Sciences Vision confirmed that “the UK has a very strong cluster of Advanced Therapy companies forming in Stevenage around the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult."


Currently, it is estimated that the cell and gene therapy campus in Stevenage – including both the Catalyst and Catapult – is delivering over 3,000 jobs and is home to over 45 companies, 13 of which are in the cell and gene therapy space.

Since then, Kadans Science Partner has established additional life sciences collaborative research space in the development of a 70,000 sq. ft. facility at Sycamore House opposite the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst campus. 

Looking to the future

The cluster continues to expand at a rapid rate and is forecast to accelerate further when available land within the GSK/SBC campus is brought forward for development.

In August 2023, the developer Reef and UBS Asset Management secured planning approval to deliver a new £900m life sciences campus set to provide circa 1.6m sq. ft. of laboratory and office facilities and support up to 5,000 new jobs. Construction of the new campus will begin in late 2023and parts of the site are expected to become available for business by 2025.

Skills and employment

The sector is supported by a skilled workforce. In 2016, a total of 38,800 science, research, engineering and technology professionals worked in Hertfordshire – 50% above the national average, with an additional 10,300 people working as science, engineering and technology associate professionals.

There are 2,800 people working in pharmaceuticals and the industry is 4.1 times more important as a local employer than the national average. More people work in pharmaceuticals manufacturing in Hertfordshire than in any other Local Enterprise Partnership area in England. The total number of pharmaceuticals manufacturing jobs is 75% higher than in Greater Cambridgeshire, Greater Peterborough and the Oxfordshire areas combined.

Life sciences employed 13,200 people in Hertfordshire in 2015. There were 330 enterprises in pharmaceutical and life sciences research in 2016. While the sector is dominated by large enterprises, there has been a remarkable growth in the business population, which has risen by 4.1% annually since 2010.

Hertfordshire's universities and the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult provide specialist training courses to support the sector. Hertfordshire LEP's skills portal HOP (Hertfordshire Opportunities Portal),, supports residents looking for jobs, apprenticeships and training programmes within life sciences, and offers young people and educators a vast bank of free sector-specific information, resources and webinars.


Hertfordshire LEP convened a life sciences industry panel in 2022 to drive forward actions that will deliver sustained sector growth, improved health outcomes and a huge economic uplift for the county and across the UK. Learn more.

Download the Life Sciences Sector and Cell and Gene Therapy Cluster Action Plan:

Sector Action Plan

Why invest in Hertfordshire's Cell and Gene Therapy sector? 

Visit to learn more

For more information, please
contact Paul Witcombe, Life Sciences Sector Lead at Hertfordshire LEP: