Paul Chapman: Life sciences must adapt to change

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AS A former microbiology student at University of Glasgow, I have a personal interest in the fortunes of Scotland’s dynamic life sciences industry. My job involves working with universities and companies securing their intellectual property rights and patents to protect their innovation.

So a new report from my firm on the changing global landscape of the life sciences sector has implications for Scotland that merit careful consideration.

The headline figure is that Europe is now lagging behind the US and China in market attractiveness – historically Europe and the US were the top two. Confidence in investment opportunities has also taken a knock. Our study polled 338 members of the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, with two thirds saying funding and investment in Europe had failed to recover from the post-financial crisis dip.

Scotland has one of Europe’s fastest growing life sciences communities with more than 630 organisations employing 32,500 people. We have 57 universities and research institutes involved.

The report highlighted the fact China is now seen as the big future player in the market as two-thirds of respondents felt that its rise would “fundamentally transform” the global life-sciences market.

So building further bridges with China is a must for the life-sciences sector to build on existing links such as the China-Scotland Signal Image Processing Research Academy – which pools world-class research.

There’s also a role for UK regulators. The onus is on them to make their territories as attractive as possible to life sciences organisations, particularly in light of the impending European (Unitary) Patent and Unified Patent Court.

Finally, there are investment implications. Early stage ventures have been hit hard by challenging conditions, but we are also seeing the rise of alternative methods of funding such as crowd sourcing.

Scotland stands at the forefront of life sciences because of its willingness to embrace innovation but must move with the times to keep pace with global trends.

• Paul Chapman is a partner and chartered and European patent attorney at Marks & Clerk.