Benelux start-ups seek strategic leadership for busy 2021By Oliver Mackie, Senior Consultant, Drug Discovery and Development, Benelux
With the Benelux region becoming an increasingly hot market for biotech start-ups, we’ve seen a really active first quarter as clients begin scaling up operations in readiness for a strong performance in 2021.
The financial year runs to the end of December here, which means Q1 is always a crucial three-month period for young companies investing for the year ahead. After such a disrupted 2020, that scaling up is even more stark this year, and whether setting up strategic leadership teams, building new clinical departments or scaling up to commercial manufacture, many of our drug discovery and development clients are currently busy hiring.
One thing we are increasingly observing is the value that our consulting and recruitment services can bring to venture capital funds, who rely so heavily on getting the foundations right with the correct talent and hiring strategy. Often we are supporting fund managers that are starting up businesses on the back of academic research and seeking to recruit chief scientific officers, CEOs, heads of R&D and teams of scientists to help them scale up, often on a contract basis initially. Crafting that team properly forms the heart of a start-up in life sciences.
A report published by McKinsey & Company last year highlighted the fact that Benelux is home to five of the top 100 life sciences universities in the world, around 30 life science research and medical centres, the top 10 global biopharma companies and around 110 headquarters of medium to large biotech companies. The region is emerging as a hotbed of biotech innovators, with €115 million of venture capital funding raised in 2019. The market also continues to be a hub for professionals driving that work, particularly in gene therapy and immunotherapy, as these innovations continue to pioneer treatment in areas from oncology to neurodegenerative disease.
With talented and ambitious leaders in increasing demand, particularly right now, the competition for talent is fierce and the pool of credible candidates is not large.
With talented and ambitious leaders in increasing demand, particularly right now, the competition for talent is fierce and the pool of credible candidates is not large. Our clients are looking not just for people with experience in team building and company start-ups, but also deep expertise in specific fundamentals of cell and gene therapy. Gene therapy is becoming something of a specialism here, and the journey to take such a therapy to market requires a wholly different skillset to that needed for developing more traditional active pharmaceutical ingredients.
The need to combine that understanding of niche technologies with business savvy and a can-do attitude makes hiring start-up teams particularly daunting. But with so much investment pouring in, candidates in the UK and beyond are waking up to the opportunities here, and we are able to capitalise on our strong network to identify people all over the world – I’ve personally never hired from so many countries as I have into the Benelux.
The growth of the candidate pool is not keeping pace with the speed of innovation, so for anyone interested in a slice of an exciting market with some really ground-breaking start-ups, now is the time to look at Benelux, where 2021 is shaping up to be a landmark year.