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Can Scotland’s Life Sciences Sector achieve its vision for 2025?

1 Nov 2017
Lyn Smith


It has been an interesting few weeks for the Life Sciences sector here in Scotland. We were delighted to see the creation of 43 new jobs as we welcome BioClavis to our shores, and the recent takeover of Uist Asco by American bio-tech company Acadian Seaplants was also a case for celebration. However, the ever present and ominous shadow of Brexit has definitely caused concern amongst those within the industry and has threatened to stifle the continued growth of the sector. 

With this being said, we thought we’d take a look into the various events of the last few weeks and what impact they might have on the vision for 2025

Scotland’s Competitive Advantage

A key element of the industry’s strategy was to “build on Scotland’s significant competitive advantages”, which certainly seems to have borne fruit in the last few weeks.

BioClavis, a spinout from Californian molecular profiling company BioSpyder, will be based at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow. Their own investment has been supported by a £4.5m research and development grant from Scottish Enterprise.

The CEO of BioSpyder and BioClavis, Joel McComb, highlighted that it was the integrated approach within the Scottish Life Sciences sector and support from Scottish Enterprise that inspired them to choose Scotland as their base.

This positive news was backed up by economy secretary Keith Brown’s announcement that Uist Asco had been acquired by Acadian Seaplants. The real value of having a global player in the Life Sciences sector establishing themselves in Scotland is the skills and knowledge they bring to our market.

Attracting this level of talent was a cornerstone of the 2025 strategy. Over the last seven years the industry has established a workforce that now numbers over 37,000. However there has been some concern amongst certain experts that this ongoing attraction of talent may be negatively impacted by Brexit.


It’s widely reported that the indecision resulting from Brexit is impacting on many industries. However the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist, Professor David Crossman, was quoted in INews as saying Brexit could be especially bad for medical and life sciences in this country. His fear is that our world-leading scientific research community could face significant problems including a “brain drain of existing talent”, deterring future talent from coming to the country.

So as an industry should we be concerned that Brexit will stop us achieving our ambitious target of £8bn by 2025?

Brexit Effect on Life Science

So far we’ve not seen any evidence of the ‘Brexit Effect’ on the recruitment market, but as we all know it is the uncertainty causing the problems – once the details of the deal emerge we could begin to see the markets affected one way or the other.  

The Life Sciences industry has continued to grow and we are recruiting for a number of roles across the sector, including;

  • Cellular Biologists
  • Molecular Biologists
  • Cell line development scientists
  • Bio-informaticians
  • Data Scientists
  • Virologists
  • Test Lab scientists Chemists/Biologists
  • Assay development Scientists

It seems that the Government’s promise of investment and support for research and development has continued to attract foreign business from outside Europe and we see no reason this should stop. The proposition of a Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB) seems perfectly positioned to support the longer development period associated with Life Sciences, despite what some see as a potential issue for the public purse.


On the whole we would say that the current situation points towards us achieving our ambitious target of £8bn for 2025 and firmly establishing Scotland’s place as a centre for excellence for Life Sciences. But with continuing uncertainty around our relationship with the EU it is incumbent on us, and the government, to keep promoting our industry as vigorously and as widely as possible.  

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