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New data has revealed Scotland to be an emerging centre of excellence for the life sciences industry, with over £600 million of funding raised for companies headquartered in the country from 2017-2020.

According to a report by Savills and Pitchbrook, who partnered on the research to assess how business property spaces were being used by these high-tech industries, pockets of life sciences growth are being seen in main cities such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

In this post, we’ll unravel the main findings of the report, showing how the UK is increasing its stakes in the life sciences and how Scotland might be the main stakeholder in an industry that’s bouncing back in a post-COVID and post-Brexit landscape.

Increasing interest in Aberdeen as a life sciences hub

According to the Savills report, Glasgow and Edinburgh currently account for around 50% of the capital-raising deals that have been recorded since 2018 in the life sciences in Scotland. While Aberdeen currently brings in fewer deals than the country’s leading cities, the Granite City raised 20% more for the the sector last year than during 2018 and 2019 combined. This fantastic rate of growth positions Aberdeen as a prominent city to watch, with its emerging life sciences cluster showing that it could become a powerful centre of larger capital-raising life sciences deals. 

Though primarily known in industry for its fuel, this will be an interesting proposition for Aberdeen, which could position itself as a destination of the future for high-tech life sciences deals. This will particularly be the case if it can gain a critical mass of firms and support eco-systems, with the right government support in place and university ties.

Edinburgh still has strategic importance in the life sciences

The property agents also noted that Edinburgh still holds a particularly strong strategic space when it comes to capitalising on the essential growing mass of firms. Life sciences companies across health, bioscience, clinical sciences, education and tech spaces are still flocking to Scotland’s capital, with the necessary linkages being crucial for moving forward and for securing City Deal Funding. 

Key deals to note

The key VC deals secured in Scotland this year included:

  • A £5m deal raised in February by Pheno Therapeutics (which emerged from the University of Edinburgh as a spin-off venture) to study potential treatments for multiple sclerosis.
  • £44m of funding in June by Nod-Thera, which operates a clinical-stage biotech firm. The funding will be used to investigate medicines to treat illnesses created through acute inflammation.
  • £50m raised by Roslin Technologies, which is an agricultural biotech firm. The funding will be used to continue its research into sustainable protein production.

How does this boost in the life sciences measure up within the UK?

Savills’ research director, Steve Lang, said that there was a rising interest in life sciences across all areas of the market, with increased interest on a global scale in 2020 as the world continued to hunt for a solution to the COVID-19 health pandemic. He added that the UK already had a strong position within the industry, with its R&D capabilities growing significantly, and that there already being a noteworthy presence of global firms in the UK. 

While indeed there has been a huge boost to the life sciences in Scotland, London and the south east of England continue to dominate the UK’s position in the sector, driven mainly by the University cities of Oxfordshire and Cambridge. In the Savills report, Steve Lang, the company’s research director, added: “The UK is very good at discovery within a life science context. R&D capabilities have grown significantly and the presence of global companies in the country is noteworthy. 

“While the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford will see the South East and East of England remain the core locations outside of London for a very long time, there are pockets of growth elsewhere in the UK that should not be ignored, and we recognise Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen as three such cities.”

Scotland’s life sciences boost is essential for the UK’s economy

Overall, the UK is currently in fifth position in the global rankings for biotech and pharmaceutical performance, and the funding for Scotland shows the government’s commitment in promoting Great Britain’s capabilities in the life sciences.

Thanks to the country’s powerful scientific community and established track-record in devising new medical technologies and innovative new treatments, the life sciences remain a hugely critical industry for the UK, and are a powerful contributor to the country’s GDP. In a post COVID, post-Brexit landscape, there really couldn’t be a better time to invest and support the industry to ensure its success on a global scale. 

Want to find out more about how to secure funding for your life sciences business – or where you should be operating from? Book a consultation with ScaleX Consulting and we’ll work with you to find a suitable solution.