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Innovation thrives in Scotland

Date: 6 April 2020


Over recent years there has been a large growth in life sciences innovation within Scotland such that Scotland now has one of the largest collections of life sciences and medtech companies within Europe.


While traditionally London has been a base for life sciences companies, recent times have seen the growth of start-ups headquartered outside of London. With high property prices and cost of living, London is an expensive choice for a young company needing to make every penny count. Scotland provides an excellent alternative to London in the development of life sciences companies.


The life sciences industry in Scotland employs around 40,000 people and comprises an estimated 770 companies or organisations.


Businesses operating in the industry are known to contribute over £5.2 billion turnover and add about £2.4 billion gross value to Scotland’s economy. The life sciences industry within Scotland has grown at around 7% per year since 2010 and, with continued investment, it is expected that the number of these companies will continue to grow.


Some factors that have led to the growth of start-up companies are provided below:


  • Scotland has a strong research and development background in the areas of life sciences and medicine.
  • Over recent years, Scottish universities have placed importance on promoting innovation, encouraging academics and entrepreneurs to develop their ideas. This has often led to the commercialisation of these ideas and the creation of start-up companies.
  • Scotland is home to a range of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are experienced in the creation and growth of start-up companies.
  • A number of innovation centres have been established in the areas of stratified medicine, sensors, digital health, industrial biotechnology, oil and gas and aquaculture to assist in the creation and commercialisation of ideas.
  • Companies can obtain business support from enterprise agencies such as Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
  • Scotland has a well established investment network, and in recent years there has been an increase in international venture capital.
  • Investment from industry has increased and the NHS has often provided opportunities for collaboration with companies to assist in development of their ideas.


Since start-ups are often associated with a university they tend to be based in Scotland’s cities. The following cities comprise the following approximate numbers of life sciences start-up companies: Edinburgh (88), Glasgow (70), Aberdeen (25), Dundee (19).


Scotland also has a number of start-up hubs that provide support and encouragement to start-up companies. Some examples of these start-up hubs are the Edinburgh BioQuarter, the Roslin Innovation Centre, Biocity Scotland, the Dundee Drug Discovery Unit, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and Inverness Campus.


There is also a plan to create a new UK innovation centre known as the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre near Glasgow. Around £56 million has already been invested in the development of this centre.


As the growth of the life sciences industry in Scotland increases, it will be important for companies to think about how they can protect the innovations and products that arise from their business.


At Maucher Jenkins we provide a comprehensive service in the protection, maintenance and enforcement of Intellectual Property (IP) assets in a range of sectors including life sciences, industrial biotechnology, medical technologies and devices, digital health and pharma. We understand the needs of companies of all sizes, from individuals to small start up companies and entrepreneurs to large multi-national companies, and the importance of providing good IP advice to companies to assist in the development and commercialisation of their products. In particular, we have experience of advising start up companies and entrepreneurs as they start their innovation journeys and structure our costs to meet the needs of these companies, understanding the financial constraints that may apply. We also offer an IP audit service to companies which can be useful when speaking to potential investors.


This article was first published in Business Scotland, magazine of the Scotland Chambers of Commerce. Read it on their website here: Innovation thrives in Scotland


For further information on our work in life sciences, please click here: Life Sciences & Chemistry