Translating life sciences potential into jobs growth will require a merger of minds and means, says Doug Smith
WHEN the Scottish Government announced that Irvine was to be the site of an Enterprise Area with a focus on the key life sciences sector last year, it provided an enormous opportunity to Irvine Bay in North Ayrshire.
Irvine Bay Regeneration Company is charged with delivering the Enterprise Area in partnership with other key stakeholders, in particular Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International, and North Ayrshire Council.
Life sciences is one of Scotland’s key economic sectors, with 600-plus organisations employing 32,000 people and contributing more than £3 billion to the economy every year. The Scottish Government’s aim is to see the sector double that turnover by 2020.
Edinburgh and Dundee have all developed clusters of expertise in the field, the Glasgow BioCorridor is putting the achievements of the west on the map and there is world-leading research work taking place across Scotland. In fact, Scotland’s research base is recognised as being in the top three in terms of research output per capita in the world.
Scotland’s universities punch well above their weight in attracting research funding. Edinburgh University alone attracts more than all of Wales. In UK terms, Scotland is bested only by Oxbridge and by London. In addition, our universities have a history of being at the forefront of research and development in the life sciences industry. This continues today with some of the world’s most prominent cancer, infectious disease, stem cells, genomics and diabetes studies being conducted here. All of this means we are rich in potential and well placed to attract some of the best research talent. But how do we translate this world-leading research expertise into industry growth and a significant domestic manufacturing capability?
We needed a forum in which we could bring all parts of the sector together with professionals who can bring expertise and value; to help the sector gain access to all of the support it needs to grow and develop. So we decided, in partnership with Scotsman Conferences, to create such an event. The conference will examine the state of Scotland’s life sciences industry and how it can continue to move forward in a coherent way to the benefit of all parties. We are delighted at the very positive response to this initiative.
Key issues up for discussion include the relationship between R&D and manufacturing, the availability of finance (both for start-up companies and small enterprises looking to move onto the next stage of development) and how to attract inward investment. The importance of skills, training and employment will also be discussed – along with how Scotland can retain skilled people and intellectual property to maximise economic benefit.
There will also be perspectives from large and small life sciences companies, and discussion around the role of enterprise areas in developing the life sciences industry. A range of experts – including private companies, academics and the Scottish Government and its agencies – will deliver their views on how Scotland can realise the full potential of this exciting industry. These will include: Julia Brown, senior director Life and Chemical Sciences, Scottish Enterprise; Dave Tudor, vice- president, GlaxoSmithKline; Andrew Powrie Smith, director, ABPI Scotland (The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry); and Scott Johnstone, chief executive of the Scottish Life Sciences Association. Alex Neil, cabinet secretary for health, is the keynote speaker.
Patrick Wiggins, chief executive of Irvine Bay Regeneration Company will talk about how the Enterprise Area – based on i3, Irvine Innovation and Industry business park and land around GlaxoSmithKline – could offer life sciences and other businesses a range of benefits, including Business Rates Relief and Capital Allowances.
The buildings meet a high standard, sites are large and flat, and there is superb access to all services including superfast broadband and an abundance of power, drainage and waste management.
We believe we have a very strong proposition to help the sector develop and meet its goals. We have a range of incentives, but just as important is the high quality of what is on offer, the flexibility and competitiveness of the offer, and the high level of connectivity the site enjoys.
• Doug Smith is chairman of Irvine Bay Regeneration Company, www.irvinebay.co.uk
• For more information on the forthcoming Life Sciences conference click here