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THYME: Developing a curriculum framework for bioeconomy employability


The bioeconomy is a large and growing sector of the UK economy, estimated to be worth £220 Billion GVA*. As a key sector in the government’s drive towards a zero carbon future, the UK industrial strategy has set ambitious targets to double the bioeconomy by 2030. In order to achieve that level of growth, a highly skilled and multidisciplinary graduate workforce is essential.

There are 415,000 people employed in the bioeconomy in the North of England*
Science and Innovation Audit of the Bioeconomy

Recent research within bioscience-based industries indicated that graduate employees were lacking in essential key skills and that there were multiple barriers amongst graduates to engagement with STEM careers, including socioeconomic, gender, disability, and ethnicity barriers.

Other studies have alluded to issues around the bioeconomy’s visibility in Careers Service materials and to potential issues around students’ abilities to analyse their own skills and map them against job opportunities. To date, no formal research has tested these suppositions in the context of bioeconomy


Lead researchers

Emma Peasland Graham Scott Dr Katharine Hubbard dominic henri Dr Lesley Morrell

Project funded by


The research team addressed these issues by the development of a research informed bioeconomy curriculum framework for employability that integrated and met the needs of key stakeholders: students, educators and employers.

The project aims were to support the career aspirations of regional students towards the bioeconomy with a focus on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). A particular area of focus was the creation of frameworks to remove the barriers for progression for students from socioeconomically deprived backgrounds.

To produce a comprehensive study of issues around the graduate talent pipeline, the research team identified three discrete groups of stakeholders:

  • Regional bioeconomy-related companies employing STEM graduates
  • Stakeholders with an interest in closing skills gaps for the region
  • Organisations and individuals supporting careers advice at FE and HE level

The research team undertook telephone interviews with representatives from each stakeholder group, covering a geographical area that broadly aligns with the THYME Project – covering northern Lincolnshire, through Hull and East Yorkshire and across North Yorkshire and Teesside. Interviews discussed graduate roles within regional businesses and perceptions of the skills and attributes needed by graduates as well as any difficulties experienced around skilled graduate recruitment.

Findings from the interviews were used to develop an education curriculum framework specific to the bioeconomy to identify and highlight skills and qualification gaps within recent graduates and highlight approaches that can address the development of these skills within a higher education curriculum setting. As well as the final framework report, interviews with graduates in the early stages of their bioeconomy career were recorded in order to produce short films aimed at raising awareness amongst students of opportunities within the bioeconomy.

Brodie Bonsor, Biochemistry student

Careers Case Studies

A series of short videos, designed to give an insight into different career options and pathways into the Bioeconomy:

Careers in the Bioeconomy – an introduction to the THYME Project interview series with role models from Dr Emma Peasland

Careers in the Bioeconomy – interview with an Animal Nutritionist

Careers in the Bioeconomy – interview with a Project Manager

Careers in the Bioeconomy – interview with a Device Technologist

Careers in the Bioeconomy – interview with a PhD researcher

Employability Reports

The research project culminated in the production of a report, including action plans for Bioeconomy employers, for university curriculum development and for embedding best practice around partnership working:

Download the THYME: Strengthening the Bioeconomy by Maximising Graduate Employability Summary Report

Download the THYME: Strengthening the Bioeconomy by Maximising Graduate Employability Extended Report

The Impact

Following in-depth interviews with THYME region bioeconomy employers covering all aspects of their experiences of graduate recruitment and employment,  a report  Interviews will also cover the skills and attributes respondents feel are essential and whether there is a perception of a ‘skills gap’ amongst graduate recruits.

Emma Peasland said: “This research has the potential to create a blueprint for educators to enhance their programmes and create the highly skilled graduates needed by the growing bioeconomy.”

The research has the potential to provide regional businesses the talent pipeline needed for the bioeconomy sector to flourish. To design an education framework that can embed key skills across multiple STEM disciplines in higher education to ensure that graduates seeking work have the necessary attributes to make a rapid transition from student to a productive member of the bioeconomy workforce.

As well as impact on the regional bioeconomy, there is potential for wider dissemination of the model proposed by the research team on a national scale, thereby impacting the education and employment practices across the UK.

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