Life sciences aspirations

How can Scotland become a global leader in life sciences?

This is the question that was reverberating around the room at the annual Life Sciences event run by The Scotsman and hosted by The Royal Society of Edinburgh. Irvine Bay sponsors the successful event, now in its third year, which brings industry professionals together with representatives of Scottish Government, the health sector and academia. This blog is based on Patrick Wiggins’ contribution to the event



At Irvine Bay, our perspective is about applying the national aspirations at a local level. A number of important pieces of national strategy contribute to the context for our ambitions to develop our contribution to life sciences, particularly in the area of manufacturing.

Responding to strategic direction

Recent strategy documents that are relevant for understanding the strategic context include:

  • The Scottish Government’s Economic Strategy, published in March 2015, which offers a route to increasing competitiveness and tackling inequality in Scotland by boosting investment and innovation, supporting inclusive growth and maintaining our focus on increasing internationalisation.
  • The Life and Chemical Sciences Strategy for Scotland, published in September 2015 and jointly created by the industry leadership groups of each sector. Life sciences seeks to double its turnover to £6.3bn by 2020, while chemical sciences has its target to increase exports by 50% by 2020 within its sights. 
  • The Biorefinery Roadmap for Scotland outlines exactly how our underused resources are creating real opportunities for our economy.
  • The Manufacturing Future for Scotland was launched recently, providing an important missing piece in the jigsaw of how to translate expertise into economic growth.

So, with the context set by all this strategic thinking, what can we do in Ayrshire to help to realise these national ambitions at a local level for the benefit of both Ayrshire and Scotland?

i3, Irvine’s Enterprise Area

Already we are committed to bringing life sciences jobs and growth to the area.i3, Irvine’s Enterprise Area and the biggest Enterprise Area in Scotland, was launched in 2012. It is designated as a life sciences enterprise area, with special incentives for life sciences companies. We are always delighted to have an opportunity to share some of the achievements connected with our Enterprise Area:

  • More than £100 million of capital investment has been committed by the private sector in i3
  • Our support and investment has seen a 28% increase in the number of companies within i3 with the total now standing at 32 companies
  • An additional 411 jobs have been created or relocated within i3
  • As a result, over 2,000 people are now employed within i3
  • New infrastructure, signage and landscaping have changed the look
  • New office accommodation has been built at Annickbank and more is planned.

Talk Science

Our work at Irvine Bay is not all about infrastructure. We’ve also been raising awareness of opportunities for local young people to choose careers in the sciences sector through our education programme, a successful collaboration with the Royal Society of Edinburgh (who hosted today’s event). The Talk Science programme brings leading scientists to the area for a programme of schools outreach and public talks, raising the profile of Scottish achievements in science and helping young people to explore possible future careers.

Ayrshire Growth Deal prospectus

Now in Ayrshire we are moving into a new phase and there are some specific opportunities in the life sciences sector that we believe could lead to economic growth. The three local authorities in Ayrshire have come together to prepare a prospectus for an Ayrshire Growth Deal. This follows on from the recent announcements of the Glasgow City Deal and the Aberdeen City Deal. We’ve been working together on the prospectus for our bid and will be submitting initial proposals to the UK and Scottish Governments in the next couple of weeks.
In preparing this bid prospectus we have taken a close look at the area’s strengths and at the challenges that it faces, alongside the relevant strategic context that I’ve outlined above. The bid feels like the logical next step for the whole of Ayrshire. The result is that our proposals have three clear aims:

  • To create a growing, innovative, smart, more productive and inclusive economy
  • To develop Ayrshire’s core strengths, particularly those of science, engineering and manufacturing, and 
  • To ensuring our communities benefit from economic growth

We believe that manufacturing is a key element for economic regeneration in Ayrshire. We have a history of success in manufacturing and an existing skills base. When it comes to life sciences we already have key anchor companies such as GSK, DSM and Merck which demonstrates that the area is a great location for life sciences manufacturing.

With the Enterprise Area in Irvine we have a major site, with infrastructure in place and international organisations showing interest in the facilities on offer. The Ayrshire Growth Deal recognises some of the wider challenges of the area, as well as the strengths that exist. The bid puts forward a range of proposals for economic growth based on innovation and internationalisation, improving infrastructure and applying the principles of inclusive growth.

Ambitious for the sector, ambitious for the region

We’re excited by the potential that Scotland’s excellence in life sciences represents. To realise the economic benefit of our research expertise means exploring opportunities to scale up and proposals such as the proposed Medical Manufacturing Innovation Centre are vital in creating the pathways to full-scale manufacturing.

There are significant opportunities for us here in Ayrshire to contribute to meeting the aims of the life sciences strategy. We need to see more manufacturing taking place in Scotland and Ayrshire. Some of the resources and infrastructure is in place already, with others within reach if our bid for the Ayrshire Growth Deal is successful.