How can the life sciences sector achieve £8bn turnover target by 2025?

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THE life sciences sector in Scotland employs almost 40,000 people and its 700 businesses turn over £4.3 billion – but its ambitions reach much, much higher.

The Life Sciences Strategy for Scotland, published in February, aims to increase the industrial turnover of the sector to a whopping £8bn by 2025. It looks like a stretch target, but industry leaders are convinced it is possible – with collaboration, innovation and imagination.

The latest statistics relate to 2014, at which time the sector was growing by around 5 per cent a year. If that rate of growth has been maintained, the life sciences sector’s turnover is now close to £5bn.

A similar growth rate could see it heading towards £7.5bn by 2025, so the £8bn target starts to look achievable.

“This is an exciting time for life sciences in Scotland and I hope everyone will get behind the strategy and help us succeed in our ambitious target,” says Dave Tudor, vice-president, head of manufacturing strategy for GSK and chair of the Industry Leadership Group (ILG) of Life Sciences Scotland, the umbrella body set up to deliver the 2025 vision.

To achieve the target, Tudor says, a co-ordinated approach is needed across the whole life sciences community – and in November, that community will come together to review and improve on an action plan to turn the strategy into reality.

The Scotsman Conferences has joined forces with all the main players in the life sciences sector to deliver A Vision for Life Sciences in Scotland: Accelerating Growth, Driving Innovation.

“This is the most important discussion in Scotland’s life sciences community in 2017,” says Tudor.

“Everyone with an interest in the future of the life sciences sector should be there to express their views on the specific actions needed to deliver the strategy.” 

The ILG identified four key themes in the strategy which will form the basis of discussions at the event. They are:

– Driving commercialisation of our innovation; 

– Growing exports through an internationalisation agenda;

– Sustaining and growing our production capability;

– Enhancing the business environment for life science growth.

Leading figures from the world of life sciences will outline their priorities in each of the four areas to delegates, who will then have their chance to express their views in discussion sessions.

The feedback on the four themes will then be taken back to the main conference ahead of a final panel discussion on what happens next.

“This is a genuine attempt to influence the direction of the life sciences strategy,” says Tudor.

“This is not just a talking-shop, it is a real opportunity to shape the future.”

Scott Johnstone, chief executive of trade body Scottish Lifesciences Association (SLA), who will join the conference panel discussion, says: “Life sciences in Scotland are in a very good place at the moment.

“We have a lot of very exciting young companies doing great things, and they are supported through the SLA’s special interest groups.”

These groups include specific areas like precision medicine, cell therapy, digital health and diagnostics and medtech, as well as more generic groups like business development, HR, finance, innovation and manufacturing.

Johnstone adds: “The SLA is a members-for-members association that tackles issues such as graduate employability.

“But we cover other issues such as access to finance, regulation, international collaboration, intellectual property (IP) or general advice – to help the members grow.

“There is increasingly strong and positive collaboration with the NHS, especially through initiatives like the Health Innovation Partnerships.

“The sector has a global outlook but it is also important to build domestic markets for new products and devices, and we are making very good progress in that area.”

The November conference is designed to lay down a blueprint to increase jobs and investment in life sciences in Scotland, creating an environment where start-ups can thrive and young businesses can scale up and grow. Tudor says: “The business environment for life sciences companies in Scotland is already compelling, but there are a number of areas to build on, including infrastructure, skills, the regulatory framework, investment and ensuring procurement policies are supporting the sector.”

Areas covered during the discussion on the business environment will include support for research and development (R&D) and patent box, which enables companies to apply a lower rate of Corporation Tax to profits earned from its patented inventions.

David Kent, of event supporter Leyton UK, says: “Government incentives are key to accelerating growth in the life sciences sector. Patent box is a fantastic opportunity for companies to exploit their IP and will hopefully encourage more companies to register patents and undertake their R&D in Scotland.”

Tudor thinks the domestic and the global opportunities for the sector are significant: “There are some great companies in Scotland exporting year after year, but there are many more countries we can export to, and some companies who are not yet exporting at all – and we will look to partner with SDI to grow that number.

“We will look to the conference to shape the action plan in all four areas – and get everyone pulling together to hit our 2025 targets.”

A Vision for Life Sciences in Scotland: Accelerating Growth, Driving Innovation takes place at Strathclyde University’s Technology and Innovation Centre in Glasgow, on Tuesday, 21 November, from 10am to 4:30pm.

It is sponsored by GSK and supported by Leyton. Confirmed speakers include:

– Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, minister for business, innovation and energy, Scottish Government, and co-chair, Scottish Life Sciences Industry Leadership Group (SLS ILG)

– Dave Tudor, vice-president, head of manufacturing strategy, GSK, and co-chair, SLS ILG

– Linda Hanna, managing director, strategy and sectors, Scottish Enterprise

– Ken Sutherland, SLS ILG member and president, Toshiba Medical Visualization Systems Europe

– Professor Sir Jim McDonald, principal and vice-chancellor, Strathclyde University

– Scott Johnstone, chief executive, Scottish Lifesciences Association

– Clive Badman, head of pre-competitive collaboration, GSK

For the latest speaker list and agenda, and to make a booking, go to www.scotsmanconferences.com

This article appears in the AUTUMN 2017 edition of Vision Scotland. An online version is available here. Further information about Vision Scotland here.