Scotland’s thriving life sciences sector defies predictions

Mark Cook, co-chair of the Scottish Life Sciences Industry Leadership Group
Mark Cook, co-chair of the Scottish Life Sciences Industry Leadership Group

FIGURES released today tracking the growth of Scottish life sciences suggest it is one of the nation’s fastest-growing sectors, surpassing the turnover target set for it some five years earlier than forecast.

The Scottish Government’s release of annual data on the nation’s life sciences cluster up to 2021 comes on the day Scotland’s life sciences community celebrates the achievements of its people and organisations at the Life Sciences Annual Awards & Dinner.

The analysis of the wider life sciences sector – which includes manufacturing; innovation, research and development in human health; animal, agriculture and aquaculture technologies; and the services that support them – shows the turnover of the life sciences cluster surpassed £10 billion in 2021.

The industry-led Life Sciences Strategy for Scotland 2025 Vision had set a bold ambition to grow turnover in the sector to £8 billion by 2025, a figure, it now turns out, that was passed in 2020.

In 2021, 33,400 people were employed at 972 sites covered by the survey, with an average wage of £40,600, who between them injected over £4.6 billion of extra value into Scotland’s economy.

Responding to the new cluster data, the Scottish Government’s Innovation Minister Richard Lochhead said:

“With Scotland’s world-renowned expertise in innovation, academia and research, our life sciences sector is a strategic economic priority and it’s why, in 2017, industry and government set out a new strategy with a bold aim to increase the value of the sector in Scotland to £8 billion by 2025.

“To surpass this figure by more than £2 billion demonstrates the phenomenal progress being made, and is testament to the hundreds of companies and thousands of employees who drive one of Europe’s leading life sciences clusters.

“These figures reflect the vital work undertaken across the sector during the Covid pandemic. This not only saved lives but demonstrated Scotland’s capability to lead in the life sciences arena. It is a performance that has positioned us as a global hub for life science innovation and expertise with enormous potential for future growth.”

The co-chair of the government and industry Life Sciences Scotland Industry Leadership Group, Mark Cook, said the data is very encouraging:

“The pace of expansion of the life sciences sector in Scotland is remarkable. The numbers show a 190% increase in turnover since 2010. It is clear that some companies have been growing at over 20% – maybe 30% – each year.

“Although the data only goes up to 2021, there is every indication that the growth in the activity and success of innovators in research, development and manufacturing of solutions to human medical challenges, and those in agriculture and aquaculture, has continued apace since then.

“We can now look afresh at our strategy in the light of this data, which shows that our sector is a national success story that has far outstripped what was originally envisaged for it.”

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