Head west for all that is best in the bay

Excellent infrastructure and utilities offer a real chance to establish a new base for scientific innovation, says Patrick Wiggins

Patrick Wiggins with Dave Tudor,vice president of primary supply chain GlaxoSmithKline and Julia Brown, senior director at Life and Chemical

When people talk about Scotland’s life sciences industry, they often think of Edinburgh’s BioQuarter, or the work being done in Dundee. They sometimes look to Glasgow’s Bio Corridor. Few, however, would cast their eyes just a little south to Irvine.

That is because, inevitably, much of the focus goes on the tireless research work being carried out – primarily in the areas mentioned above. It is Scotland’s world-renowned expertise in research in this field that has won our hard-earned reputation for excellence.

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However, when it comes to Scotland benefiting to the full from the opportunities created by the research work, we need to work harder and do better.

Scotland has a great tradition and reputation for research and innovation in life sciences. Edinburgh Bio Quarter has enjoyed success in linking Research & Development, academia and medical facilities together. However we need to provide the space and infrastructure for companies emerging from initiatives such as this to take the step into production. This is where the big wins will be in terms of jobs and GVA – and Irvine and i3 can be part of the proposition to support these growing businesses.

At Irvine Bay Regeneration Company, we are working hard with our partners in Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and North Ayrshire Council to ensure we do achieve more in creating and taking the opportunities that our life sciences sector creates.

Glasgow Bio Corridor

Irvine is home to Scotland’s biggest Enterprise Area, created by the Scottish Government last year with a focus on life sciences. Why? Irvine and North Ayrshire are host to a range of globally-recognised names in the sector – such as GlaxoSmithKline, DSM, Vogel, and Sigma Aldrich, and because we are an important complementary component of the Glasgow Bio Corridor.

A genuine challenge exists for Glasgow and for Scotland if we are to achieve our ambitions of growing life science’s contribution to the regional and national economies from £2bn and £6bn respectively by 2020. If the growth we seek is to happen, then manufacturing has to be a critical part of that. And this is where Irvine Bay, and the Enterprise Area, comes to the fore.

The Enterprise Area focuses on land around the GlaxoSmithKline plant, parts of Irvine Industry and Innovation (i3) business park and Annickbank Innovation Campus and is well served with infrastructure and utilities, including physical and digital connectivity.

The132-hectare site is unique with both business rates relief and accelerated capital allowances available on different parts of the Enterprise Area.

It enjoys easy access to Glasgow and its universities, research, and hospitals. There is a skilled local workforce in North Ayrshire – particularly in process engineering and clean manufacturing.

Key incentives for businesses looking to locate are on offer, including:

• accelerated capital allowances for plant and machinery, for which all businesses are eligible

• Business rates relief of up to £55,000 per annum for five years for qualifying companies – life sciences businesses are eligible

• Assisted Area status

• Accelerated Planning Zone

• Access to superfast broadband, manufacturing power, water and drainage

For those looking to commercialise their work and to move to creating jobs and wealth, we have much to offer. For example, an event held by us in Glasgow recently was well-attended by businesses from the sector, who heard various speakers talk on exploiting the life sciences opportunity. This will be followed up with an event in conjunction with Scotsman Conferences next February, Realising The Potential of Life Sciences in Scotland.

Our work is already beginning to pay off. There is a growing recognition of the role we have to play within the life sciences’ community, and we are seeing this manifested through interest from an increasing number of life science businesses and organisations. At the moment, we are working on five life sciences enquiries looking at space in the Enterprise Area.

To this must be added the attraction and benefit of GlaxoSmithKline’s investment in expansion of production and renewables at Irvine, as well as companies providing support to the life sciences sector – such as Infinity Automation and Oricom – who have already made the decision to invest in the Enterprise Area. In response to the growing demand, Irvine Bay is on site for the first phase of Annickbank Innovation Campus. This is new build funded by the Scottish Government. The first phase will comprise terrace-style units ranging from 100m² to 400m², and these can be configured for office accommodation or equally well for lab space.

Besides life sciences, the infrastructure and financial incentives available at i3 are particularly attractive to engineering and data centres. In fact the strategic investment site at i3 is recognised as the best site in Scotland for medium to large scale data centre locations.

• Patrick Wiggins is chief executive of the Irvine Bay Regeneration Company: www.irvinebay.co.uk

See here for details of The Scotsman Conferences’ event next February