£8bn goal for a life sciences sector in rude health

The life sciences sector already employs 37,000 people across Scotland. Picture: David Silverman/Getty Images

The life sciences sector already employs 37,000 people across Scotland. Picture: David Silverman/Getty Images

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News earlier this week that TC BioPharm had secured more than £6.25 million to develop its innovative cancer treatments highlighted the ability of Scotland’s life sciences sector to attract heavyweight global investors.

The bulk of the latest fundraising was provided by Japanese medical equipment group Nipro Corporation alongside the Scottish Investment Bank. Founded less than three years ago, TC BioPharm has now raised £9m in the last 12 months and employs over 30 staff.

The sector is a key driver of innovation in Scotland

Paul Wheelhouse

The money invested in the Motherwell firm is part of an estimated £300m which has been ploughed into the Scottish life sciences sector by global players including Capsugel, GSK, Johnson Matthey, Piramal Healthcare, Quotient and ThermoFisher Scientific in the past three years.

READ MORE: £6.25m injection for cancer drugs firm TC BioPharm

Scotland has also attracted significant international investment through acquisitions, with deals including the purchases of medical technology company Optos by Nikon; Optos Biopta by another Japanese firm Reprocell; Aircraft Medical by Medtronic; IOmet Pharma by Merck and Touch Bionics by Icelandic prosthetics specialist Ossur.

In addition, companies have also set up operations in Scotland including Cellexus, Dexcom and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, HCi Viocare, Orion Health, Sinovet and Greengage.

That global attention and heavyweight investment has helped the sector develop into one of Scotland’s most significant industries, employing more than 37,000 people across some 700 organisations.

Turnover is now in excess of £4.2 billion and gross value added (GVA) around £2bn. Between 2010 and 2014 turnover has increased by 29 per cent, gross value added by 24 per cent and total employment in companies by 13 per cent.

Tonight will see the launch of a new strategy aimed at driving that already significant contribution much higher in the years ahead with a targeted turnover of £8bn by 2025.

The 2017 Life Sciences Strategy for Scotland, being launched at the industry’s annual dinner and awards, aims to “harness the outstanding achievements of the sector of the last few years”.

Business minister Paul Wheelhouse said the impressive statistics underlined the value of the industry to Scotland.

“The sector has delivered a strong performance in recent years and is a key driver of innovation in Scotland with a particularly strong employment impact in and around Scotland’s cities,” Wheelhouse said.

“That is why it is vital we continue to provide a supportive environment for business growth and fulfil our ambitions to be a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation.”

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According to Dave Tudor, of pharma giant GSK, which has major sites in Angus and Ayrshire, the launch of the strategy comes at “an exciting time for life sciences businesses” in Scotland.

“I am delighted with the shape of our refreshed strategy and the strategic themes that have been identified. We now need focus and alignment from across the sector as we create the working groups that will plan and coordinate the delivery of this strategy,” said Tudor. who is also industry chair of Life Sciences Scotland.

One key area of focus for those charged with turning the strategy into hard economic output will be ensuring Scotland has the access to the skills needed in what is very much a global sector where competition for talent is intense.

There are concerns that Brexit could put Scotland at a disadvantage by potentially reducing its access to European staff.

Wheelhouse added: “EU nationals living in Scotland and working in the life sciences sector greatly enrich our culture, strengthen our society and boost our economy, and the Scottish Government recognises the very welcome contribution they make to our country. That is why we are exploring all possible avenues for Scotland to retain the benefits of EU membership.”

Access to funding is also key for an industry which by its nature is always cash-hungry. Significant progress has been made on that front in Scotland in recent years with developments including Epidarex establishing a £50m venture fund here supported by investors including global pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.

The Scottish Investment Bank is also one of the most active investors in life sciences in the UK, putting £39m into the sector over the last five years and in the process leveraging £98.6m in private funds.

As the latest investment in TC BioPharm has demonstrated, life sciences is a high stakes game. If the new strategy for Scotland delivers on its ambitious targets, the nation could prove to be a big winner.

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