Dave Tudor: Time for life sciences to think big and take risks

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Taking a leap of faith can bring amazing awards, says Dave Tudor

This is a critical time for life sciences in Scotland. The sector has come together to develop a strategy, with an ambitious target of increasing the turnover of our businesses to £8 billion by 2025 – and now it’s time to identify the next steps.

Dave Tudor. Picture: SNS

Dave Tudor. Picture: SNS

Some say £8bn is a stretch target, but as joint chairs of the Life Sciences Scotland Industry Leadership Group, Paul Wheelhouse MSP and I believe very firmly that we can get there.

Yes, the target is ambitious, but the Life Sciences Strategy for Scotland 2025 Vision sets a clear direction of travel.

Now it’s time to create an action plan to ensure the whole life sciences community is heading in the same direction – towards shared success.

It is never easy to get everyone on board, especially in a sector like life sciences, which is full of fast-
moving, fluid businesses, each with its own ambitions and challenges.

We want our businesses to be creative, to push boundaries, to think big – and to take risks, whether they are starting out or scaling up.

We also want to build a strong and supportive ecosystem around them – including the NHS, academia, big business, the Scottish Government and its agencies – to provide the platform they need to take that leap of faith into the future.

Taking those leaps of faith can deliver amazing rewards for society – improvements in our health and wellbeing, our environment and our food security. That benefits us all.

Our progress has been significant since a baseline study of Scotland’s life sciences sector in 2010.

In just six years, our collective efforts resulted in 29 per cent growth in turnover and 24 per cent growth in gross value added (GVA), with current turnover in excess of £4.2bn and added economic value of about £2bn.

At those kind of growth rates, the £8bn turnover target by 2025 looks within reach – if everyone is pointing in the same direction.

Scotland is already punching above its weight but that is not enough.

We want to take on the global competition, capitalising on our superb innovation and creative collaboration to make Scotland the location of choice for everyone involved in life sciences.

That requires dynamic leadership – and that involves setting a clear agenda for the future.

That’s what the strategy does, laying down four clear areas to help us towards that 2025 target.

Scotland needs to get better at innovation and commercialisation – we have great innovators but we must improve our ability to turn their ideas into products which can serve a market at commercial scale.

That means greater support for entrepreneurs, improved knowledge transfer and better investment support for true innovators.

We need to improve sustainable production. This means making sure more of the life sciences assets created in Scotland are produced here.

It is about building supply chains and re-shoring to bring high-value manufacturing and production back to Scotland.

And we need to take a more international approach – making sure our companies look abroad for opportunities, while ensuring Scotland is as attractive as possible to companies wanting to bring their business here.

Underlying all of this is a supportive business environment to provide the skilled people, the infrastructure, the investment and the regulatory framework that life sciences businesses need.

This supplement takes a more detailed look at each of these four key themes and the priorities within each.

It also tells the stories of some of the key players in our life sciences community, which comes together at The Scotsman Conference in Glasgow next Tuesday to map the way forward.

We want everyone to join the conversation to create an ambitious and realistic action plan to develop and deliver the life sciences strategy. We want everyone heading down the same path, as Team Scotland. That is the only way we can succeed – together.

- Dave Tudor is vice-president, primary supply chain, GlaxoSmithKline, and co-chair,  Life Sciences Scotland Industry Leadership Group