Ivan McKee: life sciences furthering Scotland’s innovation reputation

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL
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Our approach to implementing the next phase of the Life Sciences Strategy is crucial to maintaining the momentum that keeps us on the path towards our bold target for life sciences set almost two years ago.

Our approach to implementing the next phase of the Life Sciences Strategy is crucial to maintaining the momentum that keeps us on the path towards our bold target for life sciences set almost two years ago.

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There are global changes taking place in the sector with a greater industrialisation of manufacturing process and changes to R&D investment by global life science companies. I am confident the life sciences sector in Scotland is in a healthy position to respond to this restructuring.

My predecessor, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, supported the priorities set out by industry when the Scottish strategy was refreshed in 2017, ensuring that behind the ambitious target of increasing turnover by the sector to £8 billion by 2025, there was a clear, shared ambition, driven in partnership.

No industry can afford to stand still, and none more so than the constantly evolving life sciences sector. Scotland is in the unique position to be able to react to this, bringing industry, government and academia to the table to constantly challenge one another with a common goal.

Scotland is acknowledged globally as a leader in innovation, recognised in so many fields, from those first pathfinding journeys in pioneering drugs and treatment methods that have shaped and changed modern healthcare systems, to the latest advancements in remote monitoring and AI-enabled preventative interventions. Those iconic images of renowned education institutions; Dolly the Sheep, and the Bionic hand, are all synonymous with Scotland’s proud tradition of invention.

The sector makes a sizeable contribution to the Scottish economy, but also to the health of our population here and abroad. There are ongoing breakthroughs in areas such as Alzheimers research, cancer detection, solutions to address food security, and the advancements in precision medicine. At a summit in September, the First Minister heard from industry and academia about how Scotland can capitalise on its strengths in precision medicine and medical genomics to support health improvement and sustainable economic growth.

Businesses want to come and invest in Scotland because of our skilled workforce, our support for innovation and R&D, the investment in infrastructure and also to support pioneering manufacturing. As a nation, Scotland has consistently excelled in attracting foreign direct-investment projects and despite an increasingly difficult environment, this continues. The results of the 2018 EY Annual Attractiveness Survey highlight Scotland’s continuing success, reinforcing its position as the top UK region outside London for five of the past six years, and impressively about one quarter of all UK R&D investments were in Scotland.

The availability of talent has a huge influence over where businesses choose to locate. This is why the skills agenda is so crucial to our strategy and this summer we published the life and chemical sciences skills and investment plan.

A testament to these strengths included the recent successful collaborative bid to locate the £56-million Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Inchinnan, Renfrewshire, bolstering Scotland’s reputation as a world leader in end-to-end drug development and biotechnology. The creation of the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Zone there will create jobs and boost Scotland’s international reputation.

These opportunities will provide the platform for continued investment and create more opportunities for Scottish companies to access new markets and adopt that global outlook we strive to achieve. Our Internationalisation agenda brings together representation from our economic development agencies to work with Scottish Development International in identifying and supporting those companies. The Export Action Plan to be published in 2019 will outline key areas for growth.

This year’s conference will allow us to build on the momentum gained over the past year and reinforce the importance of our pan-Scotland approach. The future is uncertain. We may be in uncharted territory, but as a nation working together we can achieve great things.

Ivan McKee MSP is Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, which includes Life Sciences.