Patrick Wiggins: Irvine Bay boost to life sciences

ENTERPRISE Area status is a major tool to boost jobs, writes Patrick Wiggins
The status of Irvine Bay is helping to boost growth to life sciences. Picture: Neil HannaThe status of Irvine Bay is helping to boost growth to life sciences. Picture: Neil Hanna
The status of Irvine Bay is helping to boost growth to life sciences. Picture: Neil Hanna

Ambitious targets were set in recent weeks when the new manufacturing strategy was launched for Scotland’s key life sciences and chemical sciences sectors.

These high value, research-based and highly skilled sectors are the kind of knowledge economy drivers which the Scottish and UK governments want to see underpin the nation’s earning and employment prospects.

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Scotland punches massively above its weight in terms of research output. But to achieve what has been set out, a significant increase in the amount of manufacturing carried out in Scotland is essential – and in that regard Irvine Bay in North Ayrshire has a key role to play, with high quality commercial property, a robust infrastructure, and highly experienced skills base.

Since the Enterprise Area, known as i3, was announced in 2012, some 400 jobs have been created, but we are committed to seeing further growth in jobs and inward investment as the project matures – it is ideally placed to contribute to the current push to developing manufacturing in the life and chemical sciences sector.

The new strategy was launched in September, aiming for major growth by 2020. Life sciences aims to double its turnover to £6.3 billion by 2020, while chemical sciences has a target to increase exports by 50 per cent by 2020. World-leading research and development activities are happening here, but the new strategy addresses the “commercialisation gap”.

Over the past three years, life and chemical sciences companies in Scotland have committed almost £1bn in expanding their manufacturing facilities. In Irvine, Glasxosmithkline has invested around £100 million in its plant since 2012. The drug company plays an important anchoring role at i3, as it has valuable infrastructure which it is willing to discuss sharing with incoming companies – potentially saving major costs.

Life science companies including Sigma Aldrich, Vogel, DSM and others are also located here. The Enterprise Area provides the right environment for this community to grow and develop. New facilities at Annickbank Innovation campus are attracting attention from the life science sector and the Strategic Investment Campus provides the largest flat serviced development site in the north of the UK. High capacity infrastructure is already in place.

As a location for inward investors, Irvine i3 has a competitive advantage, having secured Enterprise Area status from the Scottish Government in 2012. Tax incentives are available for companies that relocate here. Some of the benefits are specific to life science companies, others are relevant to any relocating business but might be especially useful for companies with high initial capital outlay, for example data centres or engineering.

As part of the Glasgow BioCorridor and with nearby universities and teaching hospitals, Irvine is closely connected to the hub of life and chemical sciences development in central Scotland. Road and rail infrastructure is also excellent.

Scotland is already home to one of the most sizeable life sciences clusters in Europe, with a significant international presence and huge strengths in research. Our chemical sciences sector has 200-plus core businesses and it punches well above its weight, particularly in global markets. The new strategy for the two sectors together promotes manufacturing, encourages commercialisation and supports companies to scale up. The strategy also identifies that many existing businesses are revisiting the UK as a location of choice due to the high quality of our manufacturing base, highly skilled workforce, our regulatory regimes and our quality standards.

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Scotland already has an enviable reputation as a leader in life and chemical sciences. To realise the potential for our economy and create more jobs, manufacturing is key and this new strategy is an important step forward in co-ordinating all the different interests to ensure success.

Now we need to work together to create the high value jobs in manufacturing to take our vital life and chemical sciences sectors on to a new level.

• Patrick Wiggins is chief ­executive of the Irvine Bay Regeneration Company