August 3, 2012

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Life Science Cluster Strategy Reveals Strengths and Opportunities

Press Release

August 3, 2012

The Utah Cluster Acceleration Partnership (UCAP), a collaborative initiative of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the Department of Workforce Services, and the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE), released the Life Science Cluster Acceleration Strategy. Findings of the strategic industry review reveal many significant contributions and opportunities for Utah.

The Life Science UCAP project gathered extensive input and a detailed quantitative assessment of the state’s life sciences industry, core technology and broader talent, innovation and research position of Utah. Westminster College and the University of Utah acted as co-conveners, bringing life science industry, academic and government representatives together.

“This UCAP project sets out a strategy and a detailed plan of action to guide this fast growing industry cluster in Utah,” said Cameron Martin, USHE associate commissioner for economic development. “The plan will guide institutions of higher education in their mission to support overall economic development of their respective regions and the Utah state economy as a whole.”

Major findings of the assessment are:

  • Utah’s life sciences industry grew rapidly from 2001 to 2010, outpacing a growing national sector. Employment in Utah’s life sciences industry grew by 25.8 percent from 2001 to 2010, which included a 9.2 percent increase in jobs from 2007 through 2010. At the national level, growth in life sciences employment was 8.4 percent from 2001 to 2010, but essentially flat during the period 2007 through 2010.
  • Utah is specialized in its industry concentration compared to the nation and outpacing national growth in all four life sciences industry subsectors. A comparison of the life
  • sciences industry in Utah to that of the nation reveals that across four major subsectors—Medical Devices and Equipment; Drugs and Pharmaceuticals; Research, Testing, and Medical Labs; and Biomedical Distribution—Utah is specialized with at least 20 percent higher level of industry concentration than is found at the national level for that subsector. In addition, each of the major subsectors of the life sciences industry is growing faster in Utah.
  • Utah’s life sciences industry is a source of high-wage jobs, paying average annual wages that are more than 50 percent greater than that for the overall private sector. The average wage for jobs in the life sciences stands at $59,480, 53 percent above the private sector average of $38,932.
  • The life sciences industry has a significant impact on the Utah economy. In 2010 the Utah life sciences industry cluster contributed $14.6 billion in economic output to the state, supported more than 63,000 jobs with workers earning $3.5 billion in personal income (includes direct, indirect, and induced impacts).
  • Analysis of core competencies suggests many opportunities in Utah for growth in the life sciences industry cluster in the years ahead. Matching life sciences research strengths with Utah’s existing industry strengths suggests four areas that appear to offer the best opportunity for growth in Utah’s life sciences industry cluster:
    • Novel medical devices
    • Molecular diagnostics and personalized medicine
    • Molecular medicine; drug discovery, development, and delivery
    • Natural products and dietary supplements

The assessment also identifies four strategic priorities to accelerate the industry. These are in the areas of talent and workforce development, access to capital, university technology development and licensure, and cluster advocacy.

“Key findings from the acceleration strategy indicate that Utah has a strong base on which to continue to build its life science industry cluster,” Martin continued. “But realizing the opportunities will require that Utah maintain a competitive position in the life science and address any gaps in its life science infrastructure that exist, particularly those around talent.”

An implementation committee comprised of industry, government and education leaders is currently being formed to oversee plan implementation. Martin specially addressed the need for better educational alignment with the needs of the cluster “We have done a good job in the past of producing a life science talent, but we will need to develop new and innovative approaches to meet the future talent needs.”

The Battelle Technology Partnership Practice (TPP) was engaged to analyze Utah’s life science industry sector and research and development base, identify any gaps in the state’s life science infrastructure and facilitate the development of strategies and actions. TPP is the consulting arm of Battelle, the world’s largest, nonprofit independent research and development organization.

Other partners in the project include Utah State University, and the Economic Development Corporation of Utah and USTAR. Life science industry representatives on the steering committee include: Nelson Laboratories, Watson Pharmaceuticals, PPL Capital Advisors, the Utah Technology Council, and Ignition Key.

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