Work is also under way to tackle one of the key problems affecting the science-based industries of the world, the skills gap which has opened up in recent years.

The problem is caused by the loss of experienced staff, often to early retirement prompted by tough economic times, and the gap that emerged as a result between their experience and the young people coming through.

Many companies across the world have recognised the problem and are responding by running, or supporting, programmes based on the idea of continuous learning.

In many cases, success depends on recruiting the right young people in the first place then ensuring that programmes are in place which will develop their skills.

The UK Government is one of the organisations that has responded to the need by announcing a £52 million investment in new and emerging science talent, creating more than 7,800 education and skills opportunities over a two year period.

Driving forward the initiative is a new consortium of 100 leading science sector employers. Led by GlaxoSmithKline, the partnership will design the vocational training and skills programmes that the life sciences, chemicals and industrial science sectors need to thrive and compete in the global economy.

The work is important because jobs vacancies in high level occupations requiring science, technology, engineering and maths are almost twice as likely to be left unfilled due to a lack of staff with the right skills, new research shows.

The findings, released by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), showed that 43% of vacancies in STEM roles are hard to fill due to a shortage of applicants with the required skills – almost double the UK average of 24%.

Lesley Giles, deputy director at UKCES, said: “These findings highlight an alarming shortage of skills affecting key jobs in the UK economy, and point to a vital need to improve the level of training provision offered to those working within STEM industries.

“STEM skills underpin many of the industries at the forefront of our economy, from world leading engineering to cutting edge information technology, yet our findings also show some evidence that those working in high level STEM roles are less likely than most to receive training.

“There is a vital need for employers to act now to secure a steady flow of talent with the right skills in years to come: building more structured training and development schemes and developing clear career pathways are just two ways in which early action can avert future crises.”

The research also brings to light the range of sectors dependent on STEM skills, with almost half (46%) of graduates working in innovative firms in manufacturing and knowledge-intensive business service industries having a degree in a STEM subject.

Such initiatives are certainly pertinent to the chemical industry, which is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector exporter and which is reliant on skilled employees to drive forward its research and run its operations.