Biotechnology does what it says on the tin: it combines biological knowledge and expertise with technology.
This could involve using biological organisms to meet needs and solve problems in industry: usually pharmaceuticals; environmental; medical; and agricultural.
Depending on which industry you enter (which may depend upon your subject expertise and technical knowledge), biotech work can range from developing micro-organisms to clean polluted water to cloning and producing enzymes for use in manufacturing food and drink, or for usage in biological detergents. Biotech might also involve developing technologies to enhance biological processes in these industries, e.g. using laser technology for weeding, or robots for crop picking. To apply or develop new technologies in these areas, technologists need to understand the biological context or particular organism involved, which is where biological knowledge and expertise are required.
Although some large multinational companies offer graduate schemes in the field, the majority of biotech opportunities are found within small companies: usually university spin-off companies that are heavily embedded in research and development. As a result, roles in biotech also include those focused around knowledge transfer and business development, linking up biotech companies with universities and with potential funders and facilitating collaboration.
Important skills and qualities for biotechnology:
- Team work: devising new products often involves working in a team with colleagues across areas such as operations, production, marketing and Research & Development
- Innovative thinking/ being inventive
- Good at dealing with change
- Attention to detail
- Good communication skills and enthusiasm
- Ability to learn new methods quickly
- Entrepreneurial spirit: a drive for developing methods and products and striving for their commercial success
Find out more about working in biotechnology
- UK Bioindustry Association: Trade association for UK Bioscience
- Biotechnologist job profile: Basic information about skills required, work involved and what to expect in the sector
- UK Science Parks: many smaller biotech firms (usually university spin-off companies) are based on science and research parks. This page gives listings of science parks across the UK; each park’s website will detail the companies hosted on that site
- YES competitions: Take part in competitions like Biotechnology YES to gain understanding and experience of the commercial side of the sector and get real-life experience