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Key Facts

  • In total, we estimate that Pfizer’s Sandwich site boosts the UK economy by £267 million in gross value added (GVA), with £187 million of that in Kent.

  • For every job directly created by the company, another two are created across the economy – supporting 2,378 jobs in total.

  • Pfizer’s Sandwich site generates £212 million in additional tax revenues for the government, enough to fund an additional 3,730 nurses for the NHS.

  • Since 2014, Pfizer has funded £1.22 billion in research and development (R&D) in the UK economy that, based on industry-wide estimates, could have helped prevent 19,700 years of lost life.

  • Around 85% of all Pfizer small molecule products worldwide have been helped on their development journey by the Sandwich site.

  • Pfizer supports many aspects of the UK skills agenda, with around 30 graduate placements, 10 apprenticeships and several PhD/post-doctoral hires every year at Sandwich alone.

  • In addition, during 2018-19 17,000 students and school children were involved in programmes run directly by Pfizer employees across the region through initiatives like Community Lab, Medicines and Me, and Lab in a Box.

  • Pfizer staff at Sandwich are highly motivated; 96% of staff surveyed agreed with the statement that they were proud to work for Pfizer at Sandwich, 83% of staff thought that the things they did in their job were highly worthwhile, and 95% agreed that their work was helping to save patients’ lives.

  • Around half of Pfizer’s staff moved to the local area to work for Pfizer, suggesting that around an additional 770 people have been attracted to the local area because of the company, with Pfizer staff contributing around £10 million per year to Kent economy.

  • The Pfizer team at Sandwich will provide critical contributions to the global company’s purpose: breakthroughs that change patients' lives.
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Executive summary

From penicillin to innovative medicines across oncology, internal medicine, immunology and inflammation, hospital medicines and rare disease, the Pfizer Sandwich site plays an important role in researching and developing new breakthrough medical advances. Pfizer commissioned Public First to look in depth at the economic and social impact of its Sandwich site across the UK.

In order to do this, we:

  • Used financial data provided by Pfizer to model the national and local economic impact of its operations in Sandwich.
  • Conducted an anonymous staff survey, with responses from 410 (54%) of the 754 employees working at the site.
  • Held 18 in-depth interviews across all levels of the organisation at the site and with other senior leaders in the UK.
  • Our analysis has been drawn from existing academic assessments in areas such as added life expectancy from new drug discoveries.
  • Full methodology is available in the appendix, and while Pfizer commissioned this work and provided data as an input, all estimates are the work of Public First.

The Sandwich site plays a crucial role in the development of life-saving medicines

  • Pfizer is a key part of the UK pharmaceutical industry. Since 2014, the company has funded £1.22 billion of UK R&D to produce the medicines and vaccines of the future.
  • Sandwich is Pfizer’s largest R&D facility in Europe. It contains the only fully automated pilot manufacturing R&D centre the company operates, and is one of only two R&D centres globally to design, develop and manufacture small molecule medicines from the earliest pre-clinical trials through all the stages of development.
  • Sandwich maintains important strategic advantages, including integration with the UK’s research ecosystem, and highly educated and productive staff. All in all, around 85% of all Pfizer small molecule products have been helped on their development journey by the Sandwich site by the time of their Phase III clinical trials.

The Sandwich site remains a key anchor employer for the local area, boosting East Kent's economy and culture

  • Pfizer has been an important employer since it first arrived in the area in the 1950s. By providing jobs, purchasing from local suppliers and attracting skilled workers to the area, the Pfizer site continues to enhance the local economy.
  • In total, using data provided to us by Pfizer, we estimate that the Pfizer site in Sandwich supports £267 million in GVA for the UK, with £187 million in Kent. For every job directly created by the company, another two are created across the economy – supporting 2,378 jobs in total.
  • In addition, Pfizer acts as a key anchor client for the Discovery Park site in Sandwich, which itself supports 160 companies and around 3,500 jobs.
  • From our staff survey data, we know that around half of the respondents (211, 51%) have moved to the area to work with Pfizer – and that once there, they rapidly became part of the local economy and culture. In our survey, 85% of respondents agreed that ‘East Kent is a good place to live and work’ while 69% agreed that ‘I feel part of the local community’.

The staff at the Sandwich site are highly productive, engaged and overwhelmingly proud of their work

  • We were struck by how enthusiastic members of staff from all parts of the organisation were about working at Pfizer. 96% of those we surveyed agreed that they were ‘proud to work for Pfizer in Sandwich’, and 70% gave a self-rating of between 8 and 10 for job satisfaction, compared to a UK average of just 7.4. Staff turnover rates are also very low, indicating high job satisfaction.
  • Throughout the organisation, the key motivating factor for staff is the impact their ground-breaking research ultimately has on patients. 95% of staff surveyed agreed that ‘the work we do on the Sandwich site saves patients lives’.
  • The Sandwich site is cost-effective, with a highly-trained workforce and comparatively low operating spend, which enhances productivity and boosts the performance of Pfizer across the whole of the UK.

The staff at Pfizer are helping to train and encourage the next generation of scientists

  • The company has 120 'STEM ambassadors' - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - who volunteer to go to local schools and work with young people on programmes including Lab in a Box, Science in a Box and Community Lab.
  • In the academic year 2018-19, a total of 17,000 students and school children were involved in programmes run directly by Pfizer employees at Sandwich. The company also hosts around 40 undergradute placements and apprenticeships a year, and hires around eight postgraduates a year.

The Pfizer team at Sandwich will provide critical contributions to the global company’s purpose: breakthroughs that change patients' lives.

  • The pharmaceutical industry is on the cusp of a new wave of innovation, driven by predictive sciences and advanced continuous manufacturing, as well as other new technologies and approaches, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), greater use of real world evidence and new genomics technologies. This provides Pfizer with the potential to create a healthcare system that is more personalised and preventative.
  • From 2018 to 2020, over $30 million USD of new capital investment has been delivered or agreed for the site, and recent decisions have seen the creation of a Paediatric Centre of Excellence and Discovery Park being designated a Life Sciences Opportunity Zone by the Government.
  • As a destination for pharmaceutical investment, the UK has many strengths, but there are also areas where it is falling behind competitors. Looking forward, Government and the industry will need to enhance collaboration to achieve the proposed target to spend 2.4% of UK Gross Domestic Product on R&D, fully implement and expand on the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, adapt to the post-Brexit world and take full advantage of new technologies.


First founded in 1954, Pfizer’s R&D site at Sandwich has an impressive legacy of medical advances. In the 1950s, it was one of the world’s first mass production facilities for penicillin, and since then, Pfizer scientists in Sandwich have continued to work to develop new treatments for disease areas and disorders including heart disease, HIV and migraines.

When I came here first, I hadn’t worked in the industry before. At the site level, it didn’t take long to realise the legacy that the Sandwich site had, in terms of discovery of molecules.

Pfizer Director

The History of Sandwich1


Pfizer buys an 80-acre derelict site by the River Stour, near the historic town of Sandwich with main purpose being to manufacture penicillin. Sir Alexander Fleming is the guest of honour for the first batch.


Pharmaceutical research begins at Sandwich


Pfizer Central Research established at Sandwich to discover new medicines for Pfizer worldwide operations. It becomes the largest R&D facility in the UK of any US firm.


Pfizer UK receives Queen’s Awards for Technological Achievement, in recognition of the contribution made to tropical medicine by Mansil® (oxamniquine).


Feldene® (piroxicam), a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine developed at Sandwich, is launched.


Diflucan® (fluconazole), an oral antifungal drug developed in Sandwich, is launched.


Norvasc® (amlodipine), a heart medicine developed in Sandwich, is launched.


Cardura® (doxazosin), a treatment for high blood pressure developed in Sandwich, is launched.


Lipitor®, a cholesterol lowering medicine developed at Sandwich, is launched. Pfizer announces an investment of £109 million in a new research facility at the Sandwich site, creating 1,000 jobs.


Viagra® (sildenafil), an erectile disfunction medicine developed at Sandwich, is launched.


Stronghold® (selamectin), a topical endectocide used as an animal anti-parasitic developed at Sandwich, is launched.


Pfizer UK receives the Queen's Award for Enterprise for the discovery and development of Viagra® (sildenafil) – its sixth Queen's Award.


: Vfend® (voriconazole), a treatment for fungal infections developed in Sandwich, is given market approval; Darifenacin®, a treatment for urinary incontinence discovered at Sandwich, is launched.


Relpax® (eletriptan HBr), a medication developed for the treatment of migraines developed at Sandwich, is launched.


A review of R&D operations worldwide leads to the sale of the Sandwich site to Discovery Park UK; Pfizer becomes the lead tenant on the site.


Pfizer spends more than £1.3 billion on supporting UK R&D into future medicines.


Pfizer UK achieves Top Employer certification, and continues to do so every year to date.


Pfizer announces a £5 million investment in advanced paediatric manufacturing at Discovery Park, which will explore ways to make medicines more palatable for children with flexible dosing.

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Pfizer's Sandwich site plays a crucial role in the development of life-saving medicines

Over the last hundred years, average life expectancy in the UK has increased by 27 years, representing an almost 50% increase in life span.2 By one calculation, the economic value of improved health outcomes in the twentieth century was as important as all other non-health goods and services improvements put together.3

While initial increases in life expectancy were largely driven by improved sanitation and nutrition, since the mid twentieth century the development of new medicines has moved to the forefront. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the UK adopted a programme of mass immunisation, while new medicines like penicillin were able to help treat a wider variety of conditions. It is impossible to completely disentangle every cause, however estimates suggest that in advanced economies around 40-50% of the increase in longevity comes from new medicines and vaccines discovered during the period of 1986-2000.4

Life Expectancy at birth in the UK (data sourced from

The UK remains one of the leading countries for pharmaceuticals and life sciences:5

  • Measured by GVA from pharmaceutical manufacturing, the UK has the fourth largest pharmaceutical sector.
  • The UK is responsible for 12% of life sciences academic citations, second only to the US.
  • The UK has the third-highest level of foreigh direct investment (FDI) in life sciences, behind the US and Germany.

As a sector, the pharmaceutical industry spends more on R&D than any other part of the economy, contributing not just to the medicines of the future but also to raising significant income. There are 63,000 people working in the UK biopharmaceutical sector, of which around 24,000 work in R&D.

Pharmaceuticals is one of the most productive industries in the UK – with output per hour significantly higher than financial services, computer programming and the UK average.

Productivity (£ per hour) 6

Pfizer in the UK is a part of this story. Since 2014 the company has spent £1.2 billion supporting UK R&D to produce the medicines and vaccines of the future.

If we extrapolate from estimates by independent economists of the average health improvements created by new medicines and vaccines, it suggests that the company’s research investment could have helped prevent 19,700 years of lost life.7

Why Pfizer values Sandwich

Sandwich is Pfizer’s largest R&D facility in Europe. In our staff survey, there was almost universal agreement (97%) that their work was important for the Pfizer company as a whole – and this message was reinforced in our more in-depth conversations.

The core strategic facility at Sandwich is the global company’s only fully automated API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) pilot manufacturing plant. It manufactures medicines for use in the company’s clinical trials worldwide and also prepares products for the higher-volume factory methods required for commercial production at other sites.

Because of the pilot plant, practically every new small molecule drug (as opposed to protein, vaccines, viral or genome treatments) passes through the Sandwich site on its journey to market at some stage, representing around 60% of all Pfizer global products.

Every small molecule medicine that we’ve produced in the last ten years has come through our [pilot] facility

Pfizer Director

Sandwich is also one of only two Pfizer R&D centres globally to design, develop and manufacture small molecule medicines from the earliest pre-clinical stage and throughout development, the other being in Groton on the US East Coast. This includes the initial molecular design of the drug itself, as well as its formulation, which allows scientists to determine the best way to get the active ingredient into the body. Taken together, this means that around 85% of all Pfizer small molecule products have been helped on their journey to viability by the Sandwich site by the time of their Phase 3 clinical trial.

The site also hosts the company’s global regulatory function, which manages the safety data for clinical trials and the subsequent pharmacovigilance information sent in by doctors and patients. It is one of three hubs that deliver the regulatory submissions needed for every medicine in Pfizer’s portfolio and provides over 45% of the 40,000 submissions annually to regulatory agencies around the world.

Partly due to strategic decisions and partly because of the individual location choices of senior staff, all key global functions now have a solid footprint in Sandwich. This creates additional informal connections between staff, helping to shift the culture from being site-specific to being highly integrated into the global firm.

There’s this flow of information that comes in a much more productive, engaging way that you can’t always get doing a’s a multi-disciplinary environment where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Pfizer Director

When I joined Pfizer, a long time ago, it didn't feel that global... now we have collaboration and alignment across the business so that we're working to one common goal and we're using the talents and abilities across the organisation.

Pfizer Executive Director

There are also other structural reasons why the site at Sandwich is valued by Pfizer:

  • The UK’s research ecosystem. Alongside its strengths in academic research, the overall ecology for collaboration is strong in the UK, with effective partnership working between government, funding councils, universities and – at the pre-competitive stage – with other commercial companies. For Pfizer, recent examples include working with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to set up Centres for Doctoral Training to ensure that today’s PhD students have the expertise that the company needs; the ADDoPT programme where large companies in the UK get together with SMEs and universities to make global advances in predictive sciences; and the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership that drives forward the implementation of aspects of the Government’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy. 
  • Time zone. Sandwich’s location in the European time zone means that it can coordinate with other research facilities in Asia and the US to achieve 24-7 working if needed. Conversely, its location in the same time zone as the company’s commercial manufacturing site in Ireland, as well as close proximity to other sites in Belgium and Germany, eases communication at the various stages of development of a new medicine.
  • Integration with global markets. Being under the jurisdiction of the UK’s medicine regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, also means that new product research is undertaken with their stringent regulatory requirements built in, rather than needing to add them on at a later stage. This helps to make trade with the EU and other markets more efficient.

The UK, certainly in the pharmaceutical sciences sector, is very small. I can have a conversation with my equivalent at AstraZeneca, GSK very informally, very quickly

Pfizer Vice President

We commonly try and work with other companies like ourselves to try and move the dial on accelerating medicines to patients

Pfizer Director

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The Sandwich site remains a key anchor employer for the local area, boosting Sandwich’s economy and culture

The Economic Impact of the Sandwich site

Sandwich is a historic town in the Dover District of East Kent. The area has been inhabited since Saxon times, and was the location of the first Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43. In medieval times, Sandwich became established as one of the five medieval Cinque ports, and home to a significant number of Flemish settlers, bringing over expertise in market gardening and silk manufacture. Today, it remains a thriving tourist destination, and home to a resident population of just over 7,000 people.8

Pfizer has been an important employer since it first arrived in the area in the 1950s. However, in our interviews with employees, we repeatedly came across a sense of regret that many local residents did not realise that Pfizer was still one of the important employers in the area. As Pfizer is located outside the town centre in the site now owned by Discovery Park Ltd, with little visible signage, it is easy for local residents to miss the company’s presence.

I guess you don’t drive past anymore and see the big Pfizer signs. Even when you initially come in the door.

Pfizer Senior Associate Scientist

However, in reality, Pfizer remains a significant economic driver for the local area, with at least five channels of impact on the local economy:

  • As a highly productive company, it directly generates significant economic output.
  • It procures from a significant supply chain of businesses, many of which are located in the area.
  • As an anchor client, its presence encourages other knowledge-based companies to locate in Discovery Park.
  • It attracts a highly skilled and motivated workforce to locate in Sandwich, who in turn spend significant amounts in local shops, restaurants and other businesses.
  • Those staff also attract other visitors (family and friends etc.) who spend more in local businesses.

In total, using data provided to us by Pfizer, we estimate that the Pfizer site in Sandwich supports £267 million in GVA for the UK, with £187 million for Kent. That is equivalent to 0.21% of the GVA of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership. This economic impact is distributed across the majority of parliamentary constituencies in the region.


Pfizer's Sandwich site itself employs just over 750 people.In addition to this, the wider impact of spending by staff, visitors and the company’s spending through its supply chain supports another 472 jobs across Kent

Looking at the impact across the entire UK, the site supports 2,378 jobs in total. For every job directly created by the company, another two are created across the economy.


As well as supporting local workers, the Sandwich site also generates significant revenue for the government through the taxes paid by the company and its workers, the wider induced taxes paid through the company’s supply chain and the increased local spending it catalyses.

In total, we estimate that the site generates £212 million in additional tax revenues for the government. That is the equivalent of funding an additional 3,730 nurses for the NHS.

Discovery Park

In 2011, Pfizer sold its ownership of the Sandwich site, creating the new Discovery Park, while remaining as its lead anchor tenant. This change has created a much more diverse ecosystem of companies in the area. Some of the smaller life sciences companies on the site are Pfizer spin-outs, using equipment in some cases donated by Pfizer. Others came to the site because of the attraction of being part of a life sciences regional cluster and others are there because they are direct suppliers to Pfizer (i.e. Peakdale). In total, there are around 160 companies on the Discovery Park site supporting around 3,500 jobs.

We do not have comprehensive data on the productivity and spending by the wider Discovery Park ecosystem, and thus cannot model its economic impact in the same way that we can for Pfizer. However, we do know from the literature that R&D and knowledge intensive companies tend to see significant ‘spillover’ effects, with every £1 in private spend generating £2 to £3 for the economy as a whole.9

This implies that the wider impact of Pfizer’s investment in the East Kent region could be significantly higher than the estimates provided above.

It’s really been so nice to see Discovery Park take over the site and diversify... there are multiple science and non-scientific businesses on site.

Pfizer Process Analyst

Discovery Park

Discovery Park in Sandwich, Kent is a science park with Enterprise Zone and Assisted Area status, meaning it gives tax advantages of up to 100% business rates discount or 100% enhanced capital allowances for investments, plus a supportive planning process for new builds. 

As of November 2019, the site boasted 3,500 employees working for 160 different organisations. Many of the companies are in the life sciences, technology and health sectors. However, the site also hosts business services, logistics, manufacturing and public sector organisations, including the laboratory facilities for the Life Sciences School at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Examples of companies at Discovery Park include:

Mylan is a global pharmaceutical company with a portfolio of over 7,500 products, covering treatment areas including HIV/AIDs, allergy, psychiatry and respiratory. Over 55 million packs of Mylan medicines are purchased in the UK each year. Mylan have been tenants at Discovery Park since its creation, choosing Sandwich as a base for its Respiratory Centre of Excellence.

Concept Life Sciences is a science-led business that provides drug development and testing services to clients across a wide range of sectors including pharmaceutical and biotechnology. They have more than 600 employees working at 10 sites across the UK, including Discovery Park. In November 2019, they shared a platform with Pfizer and other Discovery Park tenants to discuss developing a life sciences and manufacturing strategy.

Cleantec Innovation is a company that develops and manufactures domestic and commercial ecological cleaning products on the Discovery Park site. Their clients have included Dyson, Waitrose, Park Holidays and Siemens.


The Economic Impact of Pfizer’s staff

A typical senior Pfizer employee is highly qualified, enjoys the quality of life they experience in East Kent and is now bringing up their family a short drive away from the site, for example, in Canterbury, Deal or Ramsgate.

Thanks to Pfizer’s investment in the area, a significant number of graduate, post-graduate and early-career technical scientists from elsewhere in the UK and abroad have been attracted to move to or stay in the area.

In our staff survey, responses showed a roughly equal split between those who moved to the local area to work at Pfizer (46%) and those who didn’t (50%). That suggests around an additional 770 people were attracted to or are staying in the local area because of the company10

Did you move to the local area to work at Pfizer

I never would have thought of moving here if it wasn’t for a job that brought me here...but since I have been here, I have made it my home.

Pfizer Process Analyst

I absolutely, definitely, moved here for Pfizer. Since I've moved though, I've got a family. I've got two small children. I love living here. I guess the location’s become more important.

Pfizer Director

A lot of folk in our department are coming with let’s say scientific engineering skill sets or, in some cases, postgraduate research that make them quite unique...they’re looking for environments to, I guess, build on their skills and then make a career out of them.

Pfizer Director

Pfizer’s staff are highly embedded in the local economy and culture: 76% of staff surveyed buy something in a local shop in East Kent daily or ‘multiple times a week’ and practically every respondent (96%) buys something locally at least weekly.

Pfizer staff also boost local businesses through their leisure choices: 70% of Sandwich staff surveyed eat in an East Kent restaurant more than once a month; 55% visit an East Kent pub or bar more than once a month; and more than half of the survey respondents attend a concert or go to a stately home or historic site in East Kent at least once a year.

In total, we estimate spending by Pfizer staff in local shops, restaurants and businesses generates £10 million per year for the Kent economy.

On average, how often do you do the following activities in East Kent?
Data taken from staff survey, 410 responses (54% total Pfizer staff at Sandwich)

In addition to their direct spending, surveyed staff told us they regularly host friends and family who come to visit them in East Kent, generating more spending in the local area. 73% of responses to our staff survey state that their friends and family from outside the local area come to East Kent to visit them at least every few months, with nearly one in four respondents (22%) stating that they receive visitors from outside the area 'at least monthly'.

As important as their economic impact is the cultural impact that the staff of Pfizer have. 89% of respondents regularly donate to local charities, 56% volunteer for a local cause, and 56% and 60% respectively support local cultural activities by going to a play or to a museum or gallery.11 As we will explore more later on, Pfizer’s staff also play an important role in helping boost interest in science for local school pupils and students. We also saw good evidence that the majority of the staff now feel highly embedded in the community. In our survey, 85% agreed with the statement that ‘East Kent is a good place to live and work’ while 69% agreed that ‘I feel part of the local community’.

When people do come down here...the reoccurring theme you get is ‘we didn’t realise how good it was down here’...I think most of the people I work with have moved into the area.

Pfizer Vice President

Before I came down for my interview that day at Pfizer, I’d never even been to Sandwich... well, I love the local area so actually I’m really happy that I’ve been attracted here...When I retire, I happily see myself retiring here.

Pfizer Senior Associate Scientist

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
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The staff at the Sandwich site are highly productive and overwhelmingly proud of their work

Job Satisfaction

One of the most striking findings of both qualitative and quantitative work was how enthusiastic members of staff from all parts of the organisation were about working there. 96% of those we surveyed agreed that that they were ‘proud to work for Pfizer in Sandwich’, and 70% gave a self-rating of between 8 and 10 for job satisfaction (on a scale of 0-10 where 0 is ‘not at all satisfied’ and 10 is ‘completely satisfied’). By contrast, the UK average on a similar scale is only 7.4.12

Overall, how satisfied are you with your job nowadays?
Data taken from staff survey, 410 responses (54% total Pfizer staff at Sandwich)

The job I do is the best I’ve ever had...At the end of the day, I know that patients are getting what they need and I get to do some cool science along the way.

Pfizer Manager

I'm very proud of my 25 years at Pfizer. I have the Pfizer tattoo on my arm. I like to show it off. I think we've done some fabulous work and we've got fabulous colleagues... I'm very positive about the place.

Pfizer Senior Director

We have a Pfizer Happiness Survey every year. The site has always been top of the worldwide research and development top 40 list.

Pfizer Vice President

The staff at Sandwich are well regarded and highly skilled

Pfizer employees in Sandwich are extremely experienced, specialised and operate at the highest levels of technical ability. Turnover is low: in our survey 36% said they had been with Pfizer for 10-20 years and a further 31% for over 20 years.

We’ve got a lot of experience across different groups here which allows us to kind of punch above our weight.

Pfizer Director

How long have you worked for Pfizer?
Data taken from staff survey, 410 responses (54% total Pfizer staff at Sandwich)

Our qualitative interviews showed that the site prides itself on its agility and resilience, citing a reputation for being good at problem solving with a relentless focus on outcomes and delivery. In addition, Pfizer's annual staff survey, conducted in May 2018, showed that a massive 95% agree that ‘my team appropriately stays the course in the face of obstacles and setbacks’ (2% disagree), and 90% agree that ‘I feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things’ (3% disagree).13

As a site, we’re good at doing the difficult stuff. And we just get on and do it...I work with a bunch of really talented people.

Pfizer Manager

As a result, productivity is high and the staff are able to manage difficult technical challenges.

Whatever Pfizer wants, whatever Pfizer has as its main priority, we can respond to it...that’s been one of the key drivers for, I think, the success of the pilot plant here.

Pfizer Director

We do what we say we will. We problem solve.

Pfizer Vice President

The experience of working at Pfizer

Staff feel supported at an individual level: 95% agree that their line manager supports and respects them (Pfizer's annual staff survey conducted in May 2018, 1% disagree). There are opportunities both to develop careers through relocation or, conversely, while remaining locally, even if their teams are based elsewhere in the world.

I come into work and I feel valued. Pfizer really do drive diversity and inclusion...I’m happy to work hard, because I know my company also invests in me.

Pfizer Senior Associate Scientist

Flexible working arrangements are commonplace, both in terms of hours worked and in the ability of senior staff to work from the geographic location that best fits their circumstances.

For my role, it would be better for me to be in the States to be quite honest, but it’s better for my family that I’m here...I've been provided a lot of support in terms of flexible working.

Pfizer Executive Director

There is also a sense that the site leadership at Sandwich has worked hard to promote wider wellbeing within the team.

I think that’s fantastic that you’re working for a company that actually cares about your physical and mental health...I still just get excited coming to work, like every day’s different and I’m learning new things.

Pfizer Lead Business Administrator

The motivations of Pfizer’s staff

Our interviews and survey results showed that the key motivating factor for staff is the impact their ground-breaking research ultimately has on patients. In our staff survey, 83% gave a score of between 8 and 10 when asked to assess whether their job was highly worthwhile (a score of between 8 and 10 where 0 is 'not at all' and 10 is 'completely').

Overall, to what extent do you feel that the things you do in your job are worthwhile?
Data taken from staff survey, 410 responses (54% total Pfizer staff at Sandwich)

We're all patients; we’ve all known patients. That, for me, is the exciting piece. As a clinician, that's why I do what I do. And that means a lot to me.

Pfizer Executive Director

Just in the last year, we have developed three new oncology compounds...that gives me immense pride because first, it’s good for the patient, but it's also industry-leading.

Pfizer Senior Director

Throughout the organisation, staff describe the pleasure of seeing medicines on the pharmacy shelves that they have helped to develop, with particular satisfaction coming from working on a product throughout its journey from the early discovery stages through to commercial development.

It's always nice when you see a product on the shelf... I think that's the biggest part of being in Sandwich...It’s seeing new medicines make their way onto the market, I think, is probably the proudest thing.

Pfizer Senior Quality Assurance Manager

It’s quite amazing. I love it. If I’m at the pharmacy and I get something with a Pfizer logo on it, you’ll get sense of 'Oh, gosh. I know what’s gone behind this'.

Pfizer Senior Associate Scientist

I know it’s a very small way because we’re such a huge organisation, but I do feel like I’m making an impact.

Pfizer Process Analyst

To what extent do you agree that:

Staff can name the individual products that are most personally meaningful to them and managers speak with urgency about trying to give younger team members the opportunities to experience the satisfaction of sharing the whole journey of a medicine’s development.

I try and get my team to get opportunities to take molecules all the way through, because once you’ve done it once, it’s not just about having that badge, but a huge amount of transferable skills.

Pfizer Director

A lot of the time, projects will come and go but I’ve been really lucky to see it through...that’s my first project that I came on five years ago and I’m still on it.

Pfizer Senior Associate Scientist

Others point to the motivational impact of having direct contact with actual patients. For example, when conducting small-scale trials or when terminally ill patients are given medicines in an early phase of development for compassionate use.

There’s nothing more rewarding when you sit in a project meeting and you hear readouts from trials and you see pictures of day one, week four and the end of the trial and you could see the improved quality of life

Pfizer Senior Associate Scientist

The most important work by Pfizer in Sandwich

Most cited words from 228 responses

As part of our staff survey, we asked staff to respond in their own words to the prompt, 'Thinking about the history of the Pfizer site at Sandwich over the last 70 years, in my view the single most important work we have ever done is...'

We received over 200 responses and have included some of our favourites below:

"What we do every day is develop medicines that save people’s lives. It doesn't get more important than that."

"Discovered so many different medicines that have saved so many lives and I love being part of that."

"Delivered medicines to the public that mean people are alive today who might not otherwise have been."

"Changing millions of lives every minute of every day."

"Discovered and brought to market some truly novel and life-saving medicines that have made a difference to millions of people: UK and worldwide."

"Bringing new oncology medicines to patients with unprecedented speed."

"Attracted talented people to work on and deliver blockbuster medicines to improve the quality of life of our patients.  Also provided support to local community including schools."

"Raised the profile of science in our local schools and educate pupils about the diversity of careers available to them with one of the largest local employers."

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The staff at Pfizer are helping to train and encourage the next generation of scientists

One of the most important social impacts of Pfizer in Sandwich is its outreach work designed to inspire young people to pursue careers in science and engineering.

What we’re hoping to do is to show that there is a future in STEM careers.

Pfizer Manager

The company has 120 STEM - science, technology, engineering & mathematics - ambassadors who volunteer either to go out to local schools or to work with young people on the various programmes run by the company to open up their facilities to students (see box).

I put all my volunteering days into STEM because that is my genuine passion. I can’t really describe the feeling that I get but sometimes you meet someone and they’re only at school...the things they say and the passion they have... you’re like ‘Oh, I really hope I see you in a few years.’

Pfizer Senior Associate Scientist

In the academic year 2018-19, 17,000 students and school children were involved in programmes run directly by Pfizer employees at Sandwich including 200 Year 10 school children taking part in Sandwich work experience weeks and early-career employability events designed for those in tertiary education.

I think from their feedback it sounds like we’re really inspiring them to look into science careers and studies in their further education and even just inspire them to pay attention in their current studies.

Pfizer Process Analyst

We ended up doing spectroscopy of cheese with a year 9 STEM club!

Pfizer Manager

Pfizer’s work with schoolchildren

  • Lab in a Box: Equipment such as thermal cameras, infrared spectrometers, and satellite communication equipment is lent to local schools and training is provided to teachers.
  • Science in a Box: Staff and teachers deliver ready-to-go modules designed to encourage year 9 students to think scientifically, either at the Pfizer Sandwich site or elsewhere. Examples are simulating a clinical trial using Jelly Belly beans, or a snakes and ladders game based on scientific discovery.
  • Community Lab: A-level students and further education colleges use facilities on the Discovery Park site in conjunction with Canterbury Christ Church University. Equipment includes benchtop nuclear magnetic resonance and infra-red spectrometers.

The impact of their work is monitored through feedback questionnaires with the students. There have been some instances of young people being so inspired that they subsequently applied for apprenticeships at Pfizer.

The impact of their work is monitored through feedback questionnaires with the students; there have been some instances of young people being so inspired they subsequently applied for apprenticeships at Pfizer.

Pfizer Manager

Apprentices have been growing and growing over the last few years. We’ve got a cohort of over 40 apprentices now. We’ve got a lot of young people and we’re responsible for their early careers now, so it has really built up.

Pfizer Business Manager

One of the main ways Pfizer employs local staff is through the modern apprenticeship scheme for school leavers, which now takes on around 10 people a year (with around 40 in total at the site), predominately from local schools. In addition, the company also hosts around 30 undergraduate placement students a year.

In terms of contributing to the local area, I guess, our apprenticeship campaign would be an indication that we’re actually making some good investments for talent of the future and we’re actually translating some of those apprentice recruitments into full-time posts as well

Pfizer Director

I’ve always been in Sandwich. I was born and raised in Sandwich. My mum, my dad, and my stepmum all used to work for Pfizer...I applied for every apprenticeship under the sun and I really liked the atmosphere on the Sandwich site.

Pfizer Lead Business Administrator

The company’s work in schools is only part of its commitment to supporting the local community. Staff are given five days of additional paid annual leave to pursue community volunteering activities of their choice, and the company also routinely supports local charities and match funds the fundraising efforts of its staff.

In 2018 the Pfizer site at Sandwich gave £76,000 to schools and charities including through staff payroll giving (£35,000), matched funding for staff fundraising (£5,000), donations to schools (£3,900) and direct grants. In our staff survey we found that three-quarters of Pfizer staff donate to a local charity in East Kent at least every few months.

At a more strategic level, there are well-developed partnerships between Pfizer scientists and UK universities. Senior staff take on posts as visiting professors and lecturers in the science departments of major universities - both in Kent and elsewhere in the UK - and doctoral students obtain valuable work experience by collaborating with Pfizer on live research projects.

I think the skills aspect of what we do and where we contribute across the UK is really quite significant... We have partnerships with lots of universities. We're investing in them - not only helping them - to pay for training for the next generation of potential scientists that we recruit into the industry... We give back, if you like, in a lot of different ways in the UK

Pfizer Director

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Sandwich will provide critical contributions to the global company’s purpose: breakthroughs that change patients' lives

The pharmaceutical industry is on the cusp of a new wave of innovation

The pharmaceutical industry is currently in the middle of multiple structural shifts driven by new technology, including:

  • Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to more efficiently identify molecular targets. One reason for the enormous expense in developing a new drug – over $2 billion USD – is the difficultly in identifying new, safe and effective molecular targets. On average, only 10-20% of medicines that enter clinical trials go on to be licensed, while much of the process of initial drug discovery remains based on trial and error.14 Looking forward, greater use of AI, more sophisticated modelling and new sources of data could enable more precise identification of molecular targets, and help identify the potential wider use cases of previous identified molecules.
  • Greater use of data and real world evidence (RWE) to monitor drug effectiveness.While they might be able to tell us the safety profile of a drug, no clinical trial can have the duration and comprehensiveness to tell us all the effects of a new drug without being prohibitively expensive. New sources of data including digital health records, wearables, smart medicines and m-health have the potential to give a much more accurate and comprehensive picture of the long-term impact of a medicine on patients in the real world.
  • New genomics technologies to develop significantly more targeted medicines. Over the last twenty years, the cost of sequencing a human genome has fallen from $100,000,000 USD to just $1,000 USD.15 This opens up the potential to much more accurately match up a patient to an effective treatment – and to identify earlier those who are more likely to be at risk in future. In the longer term, new gene therapy and editing techniques are also opening up new avenues for developing treatments.
  • Using Advance Manufacturing Technologies and Predictive Sciences to develop more personalised medicine. The industry as a whole is increasingly focusing therapies on smaller patient populations, and to support this is investing in new manufacturing technologies that deliver a wide variety of medicines in a more flexible, faster and efficient way.

In practice, these four trends are likely to work together to create a medical system that is more personalised and preventative, with the UK well placed to take advantage.

While it is true that the industry is finding it more challenging to develop new medicines and vaccines for the population as a whole, with drug discovery costs continuing to steadily increase, the number of medicines and vaccines in development overall has not actually fallen. One reason for this is the shift in the industry towards increasingly developing treatments that are targeted at sub-populations of patients, rather than trying to find a one-size-fits-all solution. Pfizer itself maintains a healthy pipeline of future medicines in development. It has invested significant resources in the move to advanced continuous manufacturing technologies for chemical synthesis and tablets, and is building advanced predictive models that draw on past knowledge, data and scientific learnings to augment traditional experimentation.

Alongside being an important investor in and developer of future treatments, Pfizer UK has also been keen to input into the wider debate on how we can boost the life sciences environment and embrace future opportunities. In 2019, Pfizer published a report - Breakthrough Nation - setting out a framework through which future governments could think about policy in the life sciences sector in order to meet some of the country’s key challenges including health cost pressures, the ageing population and tackling threats such as antimicrobial resistance.

Breakthrough Nation: 4 Big Ideas for Post-Brexit Life Sciences

Pfizer UK’s recent Breakthrough Nation report,16 argues that that new innovation is creating 'an unparalleled opportunity to reshape UK life sciences for the better, and to support the NHS to deliver world-leading healthcare that makes a real difference to patients.'

It makes four recommendations to help the industry, government, patients and the NHS work better together to take advantage of this potential:

  1. Unleash people power to prevent illness and find new ways to keep the nation well.In order to improve prevention, we should:
    • Put public education and patient empowerment at the heart of the UK prevention strategy.
    • Lead the world in the fight against superbugs.
    • Embrace genomics, artificial intelligence and predictive prevention.
  2. Recognise the full value that healthcare brings to people and the economy.In other words, to better allocate resources, we should:
    • Define what outcomes matter most in healthcare.
    • Build NHS data infrastructure to enable improved measurement of patient outcomes and experience.
    • Understand and recognise the socioeconomic impact of healthcare interventions.
  3. Make the NHS a beacon for innovation for the rest of the world.In order to speed up access to the latest treatments, we should:
    • Modernise how we decide if patients should be able to get medicines and vaccines on the NHS.
    • Overturn a culture of ‘low and slow’ adoption of medicines and bring researchers and clinicians closer together.
    • Create a well-oiled regulatory machine to speed up patient access to medicines.
  4. Act to show the UK is open for business.In order to maintain the UK’s competitiveness in a post Brexit world, we should:
    • Create a life sciences ecosystem which helps the UK increase R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP.
    • Become a magnet for twenty-first century clinical trials.
    • Explore new trading relationships while upholding world-class standards in intellectual property.

The work at the Sandwich site is likely to be key to Pfizer’s future pipeline. In our interviews with staff, there was a real sense that the Sandwich site is now entering a growth phase; the value of major capital investments either delivered or agreed was around £20 million in 2018/19, with a further £10 million anticipated for 2020. Staff noted that the clinical team is expanding and that the pilot R&D centre is due to be upgraded, raising levels of productivity further by shifting from batch to continuous production.

The company’s been really good at giving us money to invest in our facility.

Pfizer Director

I think we feel very strong; a bit like the Phoenix: we’re rising from the ashes.

Pfizer business lead

There is an enthusiasm amongst staff at the potential for technical advances, not only to improve drug design at the molecular level but also to raise productivity through improvements in process engineering.

We've got the money and the resources. We've got the portfolio. And we've got a desire and ambition to really push that work through and get it out into the patients over the next four to five years.

Pfizer Vice President

In particular, there is a sense of excitement around a recent decision that the Sandwich site should become a Paediatric Centre of Excellence, following a regulatory decision that every new medicine should have a corresponding paediatric formulation. Pfizer will now site the design and clinical manufacture of paediatric multiparticulate dosage forms at Sandwich.

Our very conscious efforts to focus a facility to support paediatric development in the future, I think, will be a real jewel in the crown of this site.

Pfizer research fellow

We are discovering things and we are finding things... And capsules, I should say, is still a very good way for paediatric formulation so there's an investment there that we're excited to see.

Pfizer Senior Quality Assurance Manager

Government and industry will need to work together to take full advantage of the potential of the industry

As a destination for pharmaceutical investment, the UK retains many strengths, but also areas in which it is falling behind competitors.

In 2017, working with PwC, Pfizer UK released a report benchmarking the UK’s performance against the most important drivers of industry competitiveness,17 and the overall picture remains similar today:18

  • Science, research and skills.The UK maintains a strong position in basic science and research. It is second behind only the US both for government spend on health R&D, and for share of life science academic citations. In skills, we have a higher proportion of graduates in natural sciences, mathematics and statistics than leading competitors such as the US, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
  • Ecosystem.The UK has a reasonably sized workforce for pharmaceuticals manufacturing (fifth out of 10 competitor benchmark countries) and manages a fair share of the patients recruited to global studies (fourth out of 10). While it is harder to quantify, given the strength of its existing data and wider tech ecosystem, the country is potentially very well positioned to take advantage of new digital technologies.
  • Access to or uptake of new medicines. Where the UK does less well, is in ensuring that patients have rapid access to new treatments, with patients on average receiving medicines and vaccines almost two years after the next lowest uptake country among advanced economies.19
Performance of benchmarked countries across the ten quantifiable ecosystem factors 20

As the industry embraces technological change and the UK leaves the EU, policy makers will need to consider how to support the life sciences sector. Key areas for them to consider include:

  • How can we build on the government’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy? While the government’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy is a useful initiative, it still leaves some crucial questions unanswered. What are the opportunities and threats from Brexit? How can we minimise regulatory and trade friction if the UK does not formally participate in the European Medicines Agency’s structures?
  • Should we build local sector strategies to align with the national plan? The experience of sites like Sandwich suggests there might be merit in developing sub-regional life sciences strategies to complement national initiatives, which would help to build trust and effective working relationships between local government structures and key businesses.
  • What are the most important steps in meeting the government’s 2.4% R&D target? The government is currently committed to raising R&D spending in the UK to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, rising to 3% thereafter. This target also has strong cross-Party support. To ensure we can do this while maintaining research quality, we will have to ensure that government and industry work together to overcome bottlenecks caused by skills or infrastructure shortages, and to identify the fairest and most efficient ways in which policy can support this goal.
  • How can we best utilise NHS data, and make it easier to monitor real world outcomes going forward?Given our integrated health system, the UK potentially has a strong comparative advantage in being able to monitor the real world outcomes of new treatments, enabling faster development. To realise this opportunity, however, we will have to ensure that we maintain patient trust that their privacy is being protected.

Getting the answers to these questions right requires a renewed commitment between government and all UK companies to work together. With the NHS being the major customer for pharmaceutical companies in the UK, government and industry have a shared incentive to ensure that Britain’s health service continues to grow in efficiency and effectiveness, ready to respond to the challenges of the twenty-first century.

Our research suggests that there is significant potential for R&D sites like Pfizer in Sandwich to contribute to that future and in doing so further strengthen its local, regional and national impact.

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Appendix A - Methodology

Data sources

In order to calculate the data included in this report, Pfizer provided us with anonymised information on:

  • Procurement spending by supplier and location.
  • Wage bill by location.
  • Staff numbers by location.
  • R&D spending.

In addition, we worked with them to:

  • Run an online survey of 410 employees at the Sandwich site in October 2019, asking them 18 questions about their experience both working at the company and living in the local area.
  • Held 18 in-depth interviews across all levels of the organisation.

Health improvements from R&D spending

We draw on Lichtenberg's (2019)21 estimate that across 27 countries between 2000 and 2013 the average expenditure on new drugs per year life lost avoided was $2837, multiplying this by the industry average for R&D’s share of total expenditure.

  • In order to be conservative, we adjust down our cost per year life lost avoided by 64% to account for declining rates of return for research, based on industry data that the cost of developing an approved drug has roughly doubled every nine years.22
  • As a sense check, we also benchmark our number against other estimates of the health cost effectiveness of publicly funded medical research.23

Economic impact

In order to calculate the total economic demand supported by Pfizer in Sandwich, we added together four sources of demand:

  • Direct impact. We use Pfizer UK’s published accounts to estimate its GVA impact – calculated as the sum of spending on employee compensation, interest and other finance costs, depreciation, and gross surplus – apportioning this to the Sandwich site based on its share of Pfizer’s total UK staff count.
  • Procurement. The direct, indirect and induced impact of the site’s spending on procurement.
  • Staff spending. The induced impact of staff spending their disposable income in local shops and businesses.
  • Visitor spending. The estimated additional spending in the region from friends and family visiting members of staff.


  • Following a standard input-output methodology, we base all our multipliers on the latest ONS Input-Output tables (2015 detailed, 2019),24 using these to construct:
    • A Type 1 Leontief inverse matrix, showing the additional total economy output for every extra unit of demand by sector, showing the indirect impact of spending
    • A Type 2 Leontief inverse matrix, showing the additional total economy output for every extra unit of demand by sector, assuming employment compensation and household demand are endogenous
  • We use a Flegg Location Quotient to adjust these national level multipliers to the relevant local geography, building off ONS data on employment by 2-digit industry for the relevant geography.


  • Using data provided by Pfizer, we manually categorised its procurement spend from the Sandwich site in 2018 into the relevant SIC code and postcode, and apply the relevant multiplier to calculate indirect and induced spending, employment and tax take.  Where the applicable SIC code is ambiguous, we fall back to economy wide multipliers.
  • When calculating local impact, we attribute direct spend to the Sandwich site, supply chain spend by supplier location and induced spend by employee home address.

Staff spending

  • We use data provided by Pfizer to calculate its total wage bill per each relevant geography, calculating the implied increase in disposable income from ONS data on the average effect of tax and benefits.
  • We apply a net Type 2 GVA effect multiplier for household spending to calculate the total impact of spending on local economic demand.

Visitor spending

  • As part of our staff survey, we asked employees how often friends and family from outside the local area visited them. We used this to estimate an assumed number of additional visits to the area, combining this with data from the Great British Tourism Survey on average spending by domestic visitors and the relevant economic multipliers.


We estimate tax revenue contributed as the sum of four sources:

  • Direct taxes paid by Pfizer, as shown in its annual reports. We attribute a share to the Sandwich site based on its share of Pfizer’s UK headcount.
  • Estimated tax paid by its employees:
    • Using Pfizer provided data, we calculate the total number of staff by £25,000 band, and for each band use standard HMRC rates and allowances to calculate implied Income Tax and National Insurance contributions.
    • We use ONS ETB data to estimate the ratio of council tax and indirect taxes to direct taxes, and use this to estimate total tax contribution.
  • Taxes paid from the supply chain, calculated from ONS Input-Output tables.
  • Taxes paid by employees as a result of additional subsistence spending.  In order to calculate this, we assume employees receive the average salary for jobs in the South East.


We estimate the total jobs supported as the sum of three channels:

  • Direct employment by geography, based upon data provided by Pfizer.
  • Employment from the wider supply chain, based upon multipliers derived from ONS Input-Output tables.
  • Employment supported by staff spending, based upon ONS data on average GVA per job for the South East region.


  • By their very nature, input-output models are based upon the assumption of a largely static economy, with constant returns to scale, fixed proportions between inputs and outputs, and no dynamic reaction to changing prices.
  • Input-output analysis gives an estimate of gross value, but only a limited guidance on net value – we do not know what uses the people and resources that make up the university would be put to if it did not exist, and how this compares.
  • Following standard practice and past impact reports, we include an assessment of induced impact – but this is likely to only be valid for regions that suffer from sustained output gaps in aggregate demand, and most experts believe Type 2 multipliers are likely to give an overestimate of total economic impact.25

Appendix B - Economic impact by parliamentary constituency

NameTypeEconomic Impact (£mn)Jobs Supported
Great BritainCountry164.758.743.3266.87549366882378
South EastLEP164.77.713.9186.37541213331207
Chatham and AylesfordConstituency000.10.10022
Faversham and Mid KentConstituency00.20.30.503710
Folkestone and HytheConstituency00.40.61081422
Gillingham and RainhamConstituency00.10.10.20325
Maidstone and The WealdConstituency000.10.10033
North ThanetConstituency001.11.2113133
Rochester and StroodConstituency0000.10111
Sittingbourne and SheppeyConstituency00.20.20.30336
South ThanetConstituency167.80.73.8169.37579103868
Tonbridge and MallingConstituency000.40.4001010
Tunbridge WellsConstituency00.90.51.4019827
  5. Based on:
  6. Labour Productivity: Q2 2019, ONS, October 2019
  7. This estimate is based on How many life-years have new drugs saved? A three-way fixed-effects analysis of 66 diseases in 27 countries, 2000–2013, Frank R Lichtenberg, 2019.Our full methodology is given in the appendix
  8. 2011 Census
  10. Based upon extrapolating the results from our staff survey, weighting those who suggested Pfizer was a factor as 0.5, and assuming an average family size of 2.4.
  11. Regularly defined as going at least annually.
  12. European Quality of Life Survey 2016
  13. Pfizer's annual staff survey, conducted by Pfizer in May 2018. 401 responses from staff based at Sandwich.
  16. Breakthrough Nation: 4 Big Ideas for Post-Brexit Life Sciences, Pfizer UK, 2019
  17. Driving Global Competitiveness of the UK’s Life Sciences Ecosystem, Pfizer UK, April 2017
  18. New data drawn from Life Science Competitiveness Indicators, Office for Life Sciences, 2019
  19. Driving Global Competitiveness of the UK’s Life Sciences Ecosystem, Pfizer UK, April 2017
  20. Driving Global Competitiveness of the UK’s Life Sciences Ecosystem
  25. See, for example, Input-Output Analysis: Foundations and Extensions, Ronald E. Miller and Peter D. Blair, 2009