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Leadership and management skills challenges within life and chemical sciences sectors


The report presents the findings from a study commissioned by Scottish Enterprise (SE) to help understand the current leadership and management skills gaps within two of their priority sectors – life and chemical sciences. The findings from the research are intended to help inform and shape future approaches to improving and implementing leadership products as part of SE’s offering to companies within these sectors.


The review consisted of a desk-based review and in-depth interviews with industry groups and representatives, organisations across the life science (LS) and chemical science (CS) sectors, SE and Skills Development Scotland (SDS). Questions were focused on four key work packages: suitability of current leadership and management training products for the LS and CS sectors; the potential next generation of leaders/managers required to grow the LS and CS sectors; the needs of leaders/managers of Scottish sites of global organisations; and support for the progression of company leaders to become recognised leaders within their industry sector.


The study found that uptake of leadership and management training products depends on the size and business stage of the company. While larger companies focus on organisational and board development, smaller companies often need a greater level of commercial and business development support, and early stage companies need more support for human resource and organisational development. SE products were viewed positively but marketing, communication and review were all deemed in need of improvement to support better uptake. The next generation of leaders and managers currently hold more technical, rather than business orientated, roles. Interviewees highlighted that leaders and managers should be flexible and motivated and have the right balance of technical and commercial skills with a wider experience at a larger company or international level. It was suggested that changes to the skills infrastructure needed to meet future demand focus on improving commercial and entrepreneurial skills. It was agreed there could be better representation of women and that disabled people were also underrepresented. Overall, it was perceived that the size and quality of the talent pool is insufficient to meet future demand. There were mixed views on whether the skills infrastructure provides sufficient support for leadership and management development within larger foreign based organisations. The parent company was found to play a vital role and it was suggested that Scottish sites need to be proactive and promote themselves to the parent company. Support from SE was viewed as helpful in delivering bespoke programmes and taking into account cultural and geographical differences which in-house programmes may not. Interviewees stated that progression from company to industry leader is about mind-set, drive and determination as much as it is about skills. Support required was centred on mentoring but there was a misconception about the role of the mentor and availability of SE support.


The report makes a number of recommendations, including that: SE look to raise awareness of their tailored support product offering; SE address the commercial and entrepreneurial skills gaps among leaders and managers in addition to promoting programmes which allow international or large company experience to be gained; SE target leaders and managers of Scottish sites to gain a deep understanding of their organisational requirements and develop programmes tailored to their specific needs, addressing gaps in leadership and management support that may not be addressed within their in-house programmes; SE raise awareness of its mentoring support among companies and offer targeted, long term support to individuals who are already playing leading roles within industry; and SE raise awareness of their leadership events to encourage knowledge sharing and support, and as an opportunity for current and future leaders to come together.

Author Frontline
Published Year 2016
Report Type Research
  • Business infrastructure
    Supporting key sectors
  • Sectors
    Chemical sciences, Life Sciences
  • Labour Market and Skills
    Leadership/management development