Snapshot shows magnitude of life sciences sector

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A new sector ‘snapshot’ has for the first time revealed the magnitude of the Australian life sciences sector.

According to the ‘snapshot’, commissioned by AusBiotech, there are approximately 232,218 people employed in the Australian life sciences sector across 1,653 organisations.

The research shows that 53 per cent of Australian life science organisations are industry-based, with 875 companies and approximately 30 per cent of the workforce employed by industry, at around 69,109 people.

The Australian life sciences industry sector, once dominated by human therapeutics companies, now has 281 therapeutics companies and includes the larger and fast-growing sector in medical technology (devices and diagnostics) and digital health (325 companies), as well as a steadily-emerging sector in agriculture and food technology (270 companies).

AusBiotech CEO, Glenn Cross, said, “This Snapshot confirms that the life sciences sector is a significant economic driver for Australia; it is a major employer of high-value jobs and Australia is globally competitive in the life sciences.”

There are currently around 140 ASX-listed life sciences companies with a combined market capitalisation of more than $50 billion.

Out of 875 companies in the industry sector, the majority are based in New South Wales (322), employing just over 26,000 people, closely followed by Victoria with 309 companies, employing about 25,000 people. 

Of the industry sector, about 84 per cent are SMEs, which means they empoy fewer than 100 people, representing 732 of the companies.

Research institutes are the second largest employers in the sector, employing approximately 65,780 people. Of the research undertaken in these organisations, 69 per cent is on health and biomedical research, with 70 per cent of the organisations based in New South Wales (78) and Victoria (74). 

In terms of gender equity, while female representation is around or above 50 per cent for research institutes, funding bodies, government and regulatory and support services, females are under-represented in industry, with only 30 per cent of the workforce female. While pharmaceutical companies are leading the way on 45 per cent, across the sector, female representation decreases as seniority levels increase. 

"The large workforce shown in this Snapshot 2017 depicts a thriving Australian life sciences sector that is active and substantial – and well positioned to build Australia’s capacity as a technologically-innovative country, vital for our economic future," said AusBiotech in a statement. "It is largely agreed that high-tech industries generate globally competitive economies and sustainable, high-skilled jobs and Australia can compete on a world stage in the knowledge economy with a strong comparative advantage."