Scotsman Life Sciences Conference 2019: Aspiration and positivity set to take centre stage

The three ‘golden threads’ of this year’s life sciences conference highlight the huge positivity coursing through the industry at the end of 2019.

Life Sciences conference 2018, by John Devlin

The third annual full-day conference hosted by The Scotsman, which brings together Scotland’s life sciences community, takes place at the Royal College of Physicians in Queen Street, Edinburgh, on Tuesday, 26 November.

As well as the golden threads of innovation, momentum and ambition, the agenda is built around supporting SMEs, explains Alix Mackay, co-leader of the Life Sciences Scotland Marketing and Communications Group, who will chair the event.

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“The Industry Leadership Group [co-chair Dave Tudor will also speak at the event] thinks it is vital to showcase the great work SMEs are doing and how we can support them to grow and scale up,” says Mackay, who runs her own business delivering sales and marketing expertise to the life sciences sector.

She is determined to ensure the event captures the sense of optimism and ambition in the sector, as well as the deep ­collaboration fuelling strong partnerships and the specific advice and support

needed by SMEs.

“Key themes keep coming back from SMEs – funding, working with the NHS and recruiting talent,” says Mackay. “There is a real opportunity to nurture them and provide more support.”

Elizabeth Roper, a partner in Epida­rex Capital, one of Scotland’s most prolific angel investors in life sciences businesses, will discuss what would-be funders are looking for in young firms.

Elaine Ferguson, chief financial officer of biologics business 3F Bio, will look at the issue from the business’s perspective. Ferguson has worked for a number of life sciences start-ups and has significant experience of raising investment and ­negotiating acquisitions, including a successful Series A round of more than £6 million for 3F Bio last year.

Collaboration with the NHS is another key theme, with speakers including Professor Alison Murray, the Roland Sutton Professor of Radiology at the University of Aberdeen, and Andrew Fowlie, executive manager (innovation) in health and social care with NHS Scotland.

The need for life sciences businesses to fully embrace the digital ­agenda is also featured strongly. Michelle Waddall and Rob Innes of Wyoming Interactive will cover data collection and management, with Booth Welsh and DTG addressing digital solutions for the manufacturing sector.

There will also be a presentation by the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre on the latest technologies influencing life science supply and manufacture.

Mackay says the event is building on a very strong and positive base, with Scotland already seen as a great place to build a life sciences business.

“When I work with life sciences businesses in England, people talk a lot about relocating to Scotland because of the support available from Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Investment Bank,” she says.

“Thriving businesses such as TC Bio­Pharm say that they wouldn’t be where they are today without the support they have received from Scottish Enterprise.

“The wider business support ecosystem is strong, with the likes of BioQuarter in Edinburgh, BioCity and Opportunity North East, and their strong commercial approach.”

The focus on SMEs includes an Innovation Showcase where small businesses have a four-minute window to highlight the work they are doing. The session will be concluded by Ivan McKee MSP, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation.

McKee maintains that the Scottish Government recognises the “vital contribution from SMEs” to the Scottish economy.

“The support landscape can often seem complicated and our Economic Action Plan seeks a more joined-up approach by delivery agencies so businesses can get the right information, advice and support at the right time,” he says.

“In our latest Programme for Government we have committed

to simplify and streamline our support for R&D for instance – pulling together existing large funds and using them to help businesses.

“We are also unlocking up to £500 million of investment for ambitious SMEs to grow and export through the Scottish Growth Scheme, ­fostering a broader range of growth and export-

oriented SMEs. Scottish

Enterprise has now introduced the Scotland-wide ‘Scottish Loan Scheme’ under the Scottish Growth Scheme, with loans available for growth-focused SMEs.”

This article first appeared in The Scotsman’s Life Sciences 2019 supplement.