Last week was a busy week for Scotland’s thriving life sciences sector, with the best in the industry recognised at the Scottish Life Sciences Awards, a new annual Life Sciences Strategy for Scotland published, and the industry body predicting that the sector’s value could double to £8bn by 2025. However, with continued political and economic uncertainty, what does the future hold for Scotland’s leading life science organisations?
The life science sector in Scotland is unashamedly positive about its future, with record-breaking turnover projections and a range of innovative developments taking place. But with ongoing economic and political instability, due in part to Brexit and speculation around IndyRef2, and concerns around future visa requirements and R&D funding, there are no shortages of challenges for the sector to overcome.
Last week’s Scottish Life Sciences Awards were a celebration of the best and brightest in the industry, with an inspirational keynote address from Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK, focussing on the positive impact that life sciences can have for all of humanity. The event also marked the formal launch of the Life Science Industry Leaderships Group’s new Scottish strategy, of which the headline objective is to double the sector’s turnover to £8bn by 2025.
It is estimated that life sciences currently contributes more than £4bn a year to the Scottish economy, employing over 37,000 people. Annual growth has continued at impressive levels over the last few years, and Edinburgh is well on its way to challenging the dominance of the Golden Triangle of London, Cambridge and Oxford.
The new 2017 Life Sciences Strategy for Scotland – 2025 vision seeks to strengthen Scotland’s place as a global player in the industry. Developed by a workgroup which included the chair of Life Sciences Scotland, the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, and contributors representing groups across the sector, the strategy outlines how the industry can double in size by 2025.
The four main themes of the strategy include: establishing a positive business environment which supports the life sciences ecosystem; creating an infrastructure for internationalisation which maximises Scotland’s global footprint; encouraging innovation and commercialisation to ensure we make the most of entrepreneurial spirit; and ensuring that production is sustainable to secure long-term economic growth.
With a range of multi-national companies investing in the Scottish market in recent years, and investors such as Epidarex providing much-needed financial backing for the life sciences sector, the industry has enjoyed healthy growth and optimism.
However, while the new strategy seeks to build on past successes, there are new challenges to be overcome too. Not least of these are the potential effects of Brexit on access to European funding, cross-border collaboration, and visa requirements.
The industry and all those who support it are working hard to insulate the sector from any negative impacts from the ongoing political and economic instability, but there is a lot more hard work ahead to ensure that the ambitious targets for growth set out in the strategy are achieved.