Life Sciences Minister visits Discovery Park to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week

A government minister used a visit to Discovery Park to champion the work that has made the Kent science and technology park amongst the most successful in Europe.  Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman, was in Sandwich at the start of National Apprenticeship Week to see for himself the transformation of a site now home to 108 firms and 2,000 employees.

The minister spoke with several young people about their ambitions to make science and technology their career through highly skilled apprenticeships supported by key tenants, including East Kent College, Pfizer and recruitment specialists Middleton Murray.

As part of his visit to Discovery Park, the minister also heard from a number of tenants who have benefited from the switch from a site with a single employer to a multi-disciplinary cluster of hi-tech science and technology firms.

Life Sciences Minister, George Freeman, said:  “The life sciences sector is a fantastic UK success story. Since the launch of the Government’s life sciences strategy in 2011, the UK has attracted over £3.5 billion of investment, creating over 11,000 new jobs. And Sandwich Discovery Park, one of the Government’s 24 Enterprise Zones across England, is making a great contribution to that story.

"The success of Discovery Park highlights the success of our strategy of converting "old pharma" 20th Century sites into 21st Century incubators for small companies. I’ve been delighted to meet with business leaders from Pfizer and other life science companies on the site to see first-hand how they are building on the site’s proud R&D heritage to form a thriving, science-led business cluster.

“I’ve also really enjoyed meeting some of the apprentices working at Discovery Park, as part of National Apprenticeship Week. With over 2 million apprenticeship starts in this Parliament, it’s been great to hear how these young people are earning while they learn in real jobs that will set them well on the way to the top of their careers in the life sciences.”

Among the young people to benefit from apprenticeship opportunities at Discovery Park is 19-year-old Charlotte Carr. She moved to the area from Southampton in September to join Pfizer's Apprenticeship programme, which is run in conjunction with East Kent College.

She said: “I did my A-levels at college and had applied through UCAS for university. University was what was expected but the opportunity of gaining real experience really excited me.

“Rather than following the crowd, the Pfizer apprenticeship scheme offered the chance to work with one of the world's best pharmaceutical companies, learn from incredibly talented scientists, continue my academic education, and most importantly gain experience.

“For me, the best part is how much I can learn from working alongside people who are experts at what they do. Everybody I work with, directly and indirectly, is so talented and will take the time to answer your questions and provide support.

 Katherine Barclay, Product Supply Director, Pfizer and Vice-Chair of the Life Science and Industrial Science Trailblazer, has been at the forefront of Trailblazers, a new employer led approach to apprenticeships, which the firm has championed.  She said: “For years we have been fostering generations of new scientists; scientists who have made and contributed to important medical discoveries that save and change lives.

“Today, we are working with Government to continue this proud tradition by creating new apprenticeships that inspire and develop young scientific talent.

“The quest to find new medicines and treatments is far from easy, but by nurturing our young scientists, Britain can play its role in the global fight against some of the most challenging illnesses and diseases of our times.”

The Minister also went on a tour of laboratories including tenants Pfizer, which still has 700 staff employed at Discovery Park; pharmaceutical firm Venomtech and cancer treatment business, Agalimmune.

Paul Barber, Managing Director of Discovery Park said: “We were delighted to host a visit for the minister and for him to see how our science tenants are benefitting from the strong educational links we have at the park. It was quite an accolade to receive recognition for the ongoing transformation of the site into an internationally renowned home for science and research.”

Steven Trim, Managing Director with Venomtech Drug Discovery Solutions, said: “I was really pleased to meet the life sciences minister. He is driven to supporting the biotech sector for the good of the patients and making sure world class facilities, like Discovery Park, are nurtured to reach their full potential.”

Photo shows: Minister George Freeman with Pfizer apprentices Joshua Bucceri and Charlotte Carr.

Issued by Pillory Barn on behalf of Discovery Park Ltd

Posted on 10/03/2015