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Life Sciences Is a Growth Industry in Cincinnati

Life Sciences Hero Image

The biology-based industry includes a number of STEM subsectors working to improve life for all.

A lot is happening in the life sciences industry here in Cincinnati, but you’d be right to wonder what we mean by this term. The fact is, this field we’ve come to refer to as “life sciences” is sprawling and encompasses a range of endeavors related to the application of knowledge in development of biological solutions that, simply put, make life better. According to Ohio Life Sciences, life sciences can be broken down into six subsectors, listed on their site as:

  • Agricultural Biotechnology
  • Medical & Testing Laboratories
  • Medical Devices & Equipment
  • Medical Product Distribution
  • Pharmaceuticals & Therapeutics
  • Research & Development

Life Sciences in Action
In application, the life sciences industry includes familiar fields such as pharmaceutical development, food processing, medical devices and biomedical technologies. Life sciences also covers biotechnology-based food and medicines, nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals and more.

As you can imagine, an industry this large contributes a lot to our modern economy. COVID marked a watershed moment for life sciences, of course, but the industry remains robust, signaling that this is a sector with long-term growth potential.

Last year, REDI Cincinnati took a quick look at the medical device and regenerative medicine industries here in the Queen City, noting how our region features in the development of devices such as microelectronics, telecommunications, instrumentation, biotechnology and software development, as well as procedures like cell transplant, gene therapy, stimulation of body repair mechanisms and more.

Following up on that report, we decided to take a deeper look at the numbers surrounding this important industry here in Cincinnati. The life sciences industry holds a lot of economic strength for our region, with a GRP of $6.1B last year, after experiencing 52% growth between 2019 and 2023. The total number of business locations in 2023 was reported at 1,308 after a 43% rate of growth since 2019. Overall, the bulk of this activity was spread across three subsectors: Biotech (53%), Pharmaceutical (21%) and Medical Devices (26%).

Local Life Sciences Labor Market
We’re definitely interested in industry details, but for us economic vitality really hinges on employment numbers, so REDI Cincinnati dug into the labor details surrounding the life sciences industry here in our region.

In all, 2023 saw some 17,740 industry workers in life sciences here in Cincinnati. The four years preceding that, starting in 2019, experienced 18% job growth in the sector — remembering that this span included the COVID-19 era, when life sciences activity was at an unprecedented high. But our area is expected to continue to see consistent gains in life sciences, with a predicted industry job growth of 9% between last year and 2028.

Moreover, we found some 186,556 relevant occupations/jobs related to the life sciences industry last year, the culmination of 10% occupation growth in the preceding four years, with an annual average 28,287 job openings locally in our region. Despite this data covering a time of unprecedented growth for the industry, expansion remains expected going forward, with projected occupation growth of 3% between 2023 and 2028.

Drilling down deeper into the 2023 data, we put together a breakdown of occupations in the industry to get a better handle on staffing patterns. Production represented the largest employee area at 13.6% of industry staffing, followed by management at 11.8%. Office and administration (11.6%) followed close behind, then life, physical and social sciences (10.5%); health care practitioners and technical occupations (8.9%); and business and financial operations (8.3%). The remaining 35.3% of employment fell across a variety of disparate roles.

Locally, we remain on track to grow this labor pool at the educational level, too, with regional educational completions checking in at 11,565 in 2023 across 107 relevant educational programs. STEM completions alone stood at 11,131 last year, representing a growth of 4% since 2019.

We’re Above Average in Life Sciences
Cincinnati stands above the national average across a number of metrics we measured relevant to the life sciences industry. For starters, our region is 51% more concentrated in medical laboratories than the national average, and when it comes to biological technicians, our region employs 67% more professionals than the national average. We also have 31% more chemists than you’ll find in most places.

And much of what is needed here for industry activity is also made here, with 45% of Cincinnati life sciences regional demand met by companies in our area. Furthermore, of the life sciences goods and services produced here, 63% is sold and exported to support industry activity outside of the Cincinnati area.

On the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re now all acutely aware of the importance of the life sciences industry, which intensified activity to develop vaccines and treatments for an unprecedented pandemic era. Whether it’s developing pharmaceutical treatments to treat future health threats, biotech solutions both personal and global, or medical devices to reduce pain and save lives, the life sciences industry plays a vital role in all of our lives. And lucky for us, much of that work is being done here in Cincinnati.