Triangle Ranked Nation's Fourth Best Life Science Metro

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center

North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham metro area, a.k.a. the Research Triangle, has the nation’s fourth-leading life science base among major metro hubs, according to a new report.

The Triangle now ranks only behind Greater Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego in the newly issued 2019 Life Sciences Outlook. The annual report is issued by Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle, a global financial and professional services firm that specializes in commercial real estate services and investment management.

The rankings are based on life science employment concentration and growth, company concentration, venture capital funding, NIH funding and patents.

Citing Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the report says the Triangle area enjoyed a 14% growth in life science jobs in the five years from 2013 through 2018, beating the U.S. total of 11%. The region was bested only by San Francisco, at 26%, and Boston and Denver, tied at 16%.

Infrastructure, affordability challenges at the top

JLL noted, however, that “the top clusters face unique challenges.”

“The largest clusters, the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston, benefit from their thriving ecosystems. But while these regions are unlikely to lose their prominence as global leaders in life sciences innovation, they struggle with infrastructure and affordability challenges, making it difficult to recruit and retain talent and for recent graduates from these regions’ excellent universities to remain in the area.

JLL 2019 life science report cover
-- Jones Lange LaSalle

“In addition, the growth of tech companies and increasing overlap of the tech and life sciences industries create additional and unique challenges in these clusters. Life sciences companies increasingly are competing with tech companies who offer rich benefit packages and rapid product development cycles with attractive resume-building opportunities. This can make it difficult for life sciences companies to recruit talent in some of these new technology roles.”

By comparison, life science companies “are attracted to Raleigh-Durham’s top-notch higher education system, talent pipeline and innovative ecosystem,” says JLL in the report.

“Each year, more than 120,000 students enroll in the region’s colleges and universities, and more than 5,000 graduate with a STEM degree annually. More than 47.0 percent of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, cementing the region’s status as a ‘smart’ market.”

Funding picture improving for Triangle entrepreneurs

The report notes that life science entrepreneurs in North Carolina raised more than $730.4 million in equity in 2018, accounting for over a quarter of the $2.7 billion in equity raised by startups across the state. “

“Funding is increasingly coming from out of market as Raleigh-Durham’s and North Carolina’s reputations for success in the startup community grows.”

Doug Edgeton, president and CEO of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, said the JLL report reinforces the state’s reputation as a global life science leader.

“NCBiotech is observing its 35th anniversary this year,” he said, “It’s a significant reminder of the state’s continuous three-and-a-half-decade commitment to this important sector. With our proven workforce development prowess, our business-friendly environment and our outstanding core of academic institutions, it’s clear that North Carolina is a leading player on the global life science stage.”

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