£200m European programme puts Scotland's life science sector in investor's spotlight

Scotland's life sciences firms are being urged to take advantage of Scottish Enterprise's new European-backed funding programme to help attract investment and spark further growth in Scotland's economy.

Picture: Shutterstock
Picture: Shutterstock

The £200 million Scottish-European Growth Co-Investment Programme (SEGCP) offers typically up to £10m in match funding plus advice and introductions to institutional investors.

The Scottish Investment Bank (SIB), which runs the programme, says there are investors for all different stages of company, operating in different sectors, but there are a number particularly interested in the hundreds of biotech start-ups that have sprung up around Scotland’s knowledge centres over the last decade.

SIB’s director, Kerry Sharp, said: “Between 2009 and 2015, Scotland created more than 170 life sciences start-ups and over 60 university spin-outs. As these enterprises began to grow and realise returns on initial investment, many have become caught in a constant cycle of fundraising to raise enough capital to take the next step up. This is one of the reasons why we have developed this programme, and why the life sciences sector is an excellent fit for the programme.”

There is growing interest from life sciences companies currently based outside the region looking to move to Scotland’s skills-rich environment while also securing their long-term financial requirements, although SIB stresses only those with a real commitment to the region will be considered.

SEGCP is a partnership between Scottish Enterprise and the European Investment Fund (EIF), which was formed after the Scottish Government recognised the need for later stage investment capital and made funding available through the Scottish Growth Scheme. Made up of £50m from each partner, eligible firms can access the cash if they also have private investors on board. To help with this, SEGCP works with a Europe-wide network of EIF backed fund managers who are set to bring at least a further £100 million to the table. This gives a total pot of £200 million available for Scottish businesses for the duration of the three-year project, plus a wealth of expertise.

SIB has already held an initial round of meetings with a number of the fund managers involved with the European Investment Fund, and Sharp said there had been particular interest in the life sciences sector.

She said: “The first ten fund managers we met through this new partnership specialised in life sciences investment. This is especially valuable because, as with all our programmes, we aim to offer far more than funding. Expertise, connections and board-level advice are critical to ensure funding on this scale is used successfully. This new partnership with the European Investment Fund is facilitating further networks in life sciences in London and throughout wider Europe.”

SEGCP funds are not exclusively for life sciences firms - any SME with growth ambitions can apply. Sharp said that although Scottish Enterprise already works with hundreds of companies that may be eligible, and is advising these accordingly, these are probably thousands more which don’t yet have this funding and support option on their radar.

“What we need is for firms to come forward - we have investors ready and primed to meet them,” she said.