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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Scotland: the Helm of Life Sciences


Scotland has a rich legacy in medical breakthroughs and technological innovation. Today, the country has one of Europe’s fastest growing biopharmaceutical sectors. The life sciences industry has been recognised as a priority sector by the Scottish Government’s Economic Strategy, and the country offers a highly attractive environment for investment and innovation. The scientific base of life sciences in Scotland is among the world’s best, while innovative public-private collaborations facilitate and accelerate growth opportunities. The country has considerable strengths in stem cell research, therapeutics, medical devices, diagnostics, contract research services, clinical trials and healthcare markets. Scotland’s economic development agencies work to ensure that investment and growth opportunities are maximised.

Scotland has an impressive array of medical breakthroughs and innovations to its name. From anaesthetic in the 1840s, insulin and penicillin in the 1920s, through to ReNeuron’s recent stem cell trial for stroke patients, Scotland has long been leading the way in medical science and discovery. Researchers at the world renowned Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine (SCRM) at the University of Edinburgh have recently reported a way of delivering foreign genes to reprogramme cells without using viruses in mouse and human cells, ultimately making them safer to use in humans.


One of the greatest strengths of Scotland’s life sciences community is its commitment to ‘joined up’ thinking. We actively bring together the industry, government, academia and related industries to maximise our potential, from concept through to planning and implementation.

The Scottish Government recently launched the Scottish Life Sciences Strategy 2008: ‘2020 Vision: Achieving Critical Mass’, developed by the Life Sciences Alliance (the main life sciences industrial association in Scotland) in partnership with Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Government’s main innovation, enterprise and investment agency. There are five key components at the heart of the strategy:

  • People – attract, retain and develop talented people and ensure that companies have access to people with the right skills mix to help them grow
  • Technology – develop the business environment to enable technology transfer between academia and business
  • Capital – ensure companies have access to funding at different stages of the growth cycle
  • Infrastructure – create the right facilities and accommodation to meet the needs of the growing sector
  • Collaboration – by working together, Life Sciences Scotland will enable the sector to compete more effectively around the world

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John Swinney MSP is Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, a post he has held since the election of the Scottish National Party-led Scottish Government in May 2007. In this role, John is responsible for the Scottish Government’s budget and policy for the Scottish economy, local government, energy, tourism, climate change, public transport and Scottish Water. John graduated from Edinburgh University with an MA (Hons) in Politics. He has worked for the Scottish Coal Project, Development Options and Scottish Amicable, and between 2000 and 2004 he served as leader of the SNP.

John Swinney
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