The British biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca will relocate around 1,600 skilled jobs from Alderley Park in George Osborne’s Cheshire constituency to sites in Cambridge and Macclesfield over the next three years.
Cambridge was chosen because it is “a world-renowned bioscience hotspot that rivals the likes of San Francisco and Boston”, according to Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca. He said that the Cambridge investment “greatly increases the chances that the next generation of innovative medicines will be invented and manufactured in Britain”.
As part of its restructuring, the group will axe 700 jobs in the UK by the end of 2016 and relocate up to 300 other posts abroad as part of its plan to create strategic global R&D centres in the US, UK and Sweden.
The company’s current global headquarters in Paddington are expected to close by 2016. A new £330m research hub in Cambridge will become the company’s global headquarters.
Mark Downs, CEO of the Society of Biology, said it was a “sad day for many in the UK’s pharmaceutical industry. On top of the closure of the Pfizer Sandwich site, this latest announcement of at least 700 job losses at AstraZeneca risks further reducing the UK’s collective capability in drug development.”
Britain and Ireland’s biggest union, Unite, said AstraZeneca’s decision was a massive blow for the north-west and called for a rethink.
Michael Jones, the leader of Cheshire East council, told the Financial Times: “George Osborne has personally fought very hard to retain a strong position for AstraZeneca in the UK and I believe without his direct involvement the announcements today would have meant a complete closure of Alderley Park.”
Rod Coombs, the deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester, said its partnership with the company would continue. “We will be working closely with others to minimise the impact [of the announcement] and foster opportunities for economic development and employment.”
AstraZeneca employs 6,700 workers in the UK at eight sites.