A student’s view on the opportunities in the biotech industry

Our new intern Alice, working with GoBio, is a first year PhD student based at UEA and has given her perspective of the biotech industry in the eastern region.

The biotech industry is a developing and diverse sector in the East of England. Hotspots for companies in the east tend to be based near the local universities, UEA and University of Suffolk and regional hospitals at King’s Lynn, Norfolk & Norwich and Ipswich. Key areas include agri-tech, digital biology and health. These outlets all have some common goals to address the pressing problems of today: feed the world, fuel the world and heal the world in clean sustainable ways.


Students and companies have a lot to gain from collaboration. Students could offer local employers experience in the latest techniques, and could work together through innovative collaborations like placements, graduate schemes and employment opportunities. Where students and companies come together; merging experienced company staff with enthusiastic students could generate new perspectives and approaches which could form pioneering enterprises like Gropod in Norwich.


PhD students are encouraged throughout their studies to come up with new ideas, developing and testing these in a structured way. Forming a hypothesis, a research plan, analysing the results, making conclusions and presenting them in a comprehensible way. Students are concerned with pressures on academic budgets that there will be fewer employment options for them, and are looking to the local biotech sector for great opportunities. From the perspective of the student, the biotech industry still offers a wealth of opportunities in a diverse range of areas. Students from a range of backgrounds from chemical sciences to computational biology can fit into these interdisciplinary fields such as in biomanufacturing working on synthetic biology projects at the NRP to digital health to analyse big data at the Norfolk & Norwich hospital.


Most students believe it is better to work in industry as they could be offered a more secure employment position to conduct their vital work. The industry already offers some opportunities for students to gain work experience with bigger companies in the region like BT offering graduate programmes. Other opportunities earlier on take shape in the form of specialised apprenticeships to help students at an early stage gain insight and vital experience into local companies and SMEs. Apprenticeships in science and technology are already available locally from institutes like West Suffolk College.


(NRP-99) DNA sequencing on the Norwich Research Park

As a student, I look for opportunities to collaborate, learn and grow. For students looking for opportunities within companies I advise students as follows:

  1. Patience- Not all companies will reply quickly, as some are more smaller enterprises and may not have dedicated HR staff to deal with your request
  2. Practice- Practice how to summarise what you can offer and what you could gain as these will be the first things you will be asked by a company
  3. Perseverance- Not all companies will say yes first time; they might not have what you are looking for or it may be too early in your career to approach them
  4. Passion- this is key, do not lose your passion, as this will keep you going do not lose sight of what motivates you.


So overall, I believe the local biotech economy has a lot to benefit from the local talent pool and will no doubt continue to innovate and expand in the future, giving local students more opportunities. Finally, if you are a student with a great business idea, then Hethel Innovation would like to hear from you.




Please contact Aaron by email: ahunter@hethelinnovation.com to help capture your idea.


Useful links:

Gropod: https://www.gro-pod.co.uk/

NHS Careers: https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/

West Suffolk College Apprenticeships: https://www.wsc.ac.uk/find-a-course/apprenticeships#

BT Apprenticeships: https://www.btplc.com/Careercentre/earlycareers/apprentices/index.htm