Scottish firms eye share of UK’s £168m tech funding

David Willetts. Picture: Getty
David Willetts. Picture: Getty
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SCOTLAND’S life science and technology sectors today hailed a £168 million funding injection from the UK government as a “valuable” boost for speeding up innovation.

UK science minister David Willetts said £10m would go towards Glasgow University’s £58m research facility and imaging suite at the South Glasgow Hospitals Campus.

Further cash for the unit will come from New York-listed Life Technologies, Pebble Appeal and the Wellcome Trust, as well as the university itself.

Willetts, pictured, also promised £3.5m for business-led projects in the field of “synthetic biology”, which uses engineering techniques to help develop biological devices and systems.

Scott Johnstone, chief executive of the Scottish Lifesciences Association (SLA) trade body, said: “This is great news for an important sector.

“Scotland is well known for innovation in this area and extra funding to promote this is valuable. We welcome the inclusion of business-led funding.”

A £70m “agri-tech catalyst” fund will also be launched to help take agricultural technology ideas across the “valley of death” from the university laboratory into the marketplace.

Julia Brown, senior life sciences director at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Scotland is recognised as one of the world-leading clusters of plant and animal bioscience research.”

She said the agency was looking at ways for research to be translated into commercial opportunities. Brown added: “This fund will be key in helping to do this.”

Two projects to monitor currents in the North Atlantic will receive £44m, while King’s College London will get £15m for a cancer research centre at Guy’s Hospital and Southampton University will get £10m for its engineering facilities. The remaining £34m will go towards a data research network.

News of the investments came as a report from the BioIndustry Association trade body said that the UK has the “strongest bioscience cluster in Europe”. Despite a lack of traditional venture capital funding, British companies raised more than £300m last year, including through licensing deals.

The report’s findings echo a speech made on Wednesday night by finance secretary John Swinney, who revealed the life sciences sector’s contribution to the Scottish economy rose by 9 per cent year-on-year to £960m in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available.

Swinney told an audience of 300 business leaders at the SLA annual dinner that the number of people working in the sector rose by 18 per cent over the same period to 17,300.

He hailed the initial success of the Health Innovation Partnership, which is being run by the SLA for the Scottish Government to bring together NHS Scotland and businesses to develop technology for the healthcare sector. Swinney said: “In only six months, the SLA has already supported 25 companies to establish in-depth links with clinicians.”