i3, the perfect storm of opportunity

Ayrshire can play an important role in helping deliver some key targets for Scotland’s future economic growth – in particular in the life and chemical sciences sector - by generating

high value, sustainable jobs that embed the sector in Scotland as a global hub.

A number of important strategic documents and frameworks have come together to create the perfect storm of opportunity in Ayrshire, with i3, Irvine’s enterprise area very much the “i” of the storm.


National objectives and aims outlined in a variety of strategies – such as the Scottish Government’s “Scotland’s Economic Strategy”; the industry-led “Life and Chemical Sciences Manufacturing Strategy for Scotland”; and the collaborative “A Manufacturing Future for Scotland” all channel our thinking at a regional level.

Some common themes run through the various strategic documents – areas that we need to focus on if we are all to play our parts in helping to achieve our national objectives. These are the four i’s of Scotland’s economic strategy - innovation, internationalisation, investment and inclusive growth – essential to create sustainability.

The targets for the sector are to double life science turnover to more than £6 billion by 2020. Chemical science is targeting a 50% increase in exports by the same year.

These are ambitious targets, and there is general agreement that they can only be achieved with a significant increase in the manufacturing in these sectors within Scotland – and there are some encouraging signs. We know that businesses in Scotland have spent in excess of £1 billion in increasing manufacturing capacity in Scotland over the past 12-24 months – with GSK at Irvine a major player in that.

The scale of our opportunity at our local level is further borne out at the i3 Enterprise Area, created in 2012, which is already bearing fruit, with £100 million of capital invested on site, 2000 people now in work on site, 200,000 sq ft of business space refurbished or created and a similar amount let since 2012, and a further 100,000 sq ft under offer.

More than 400 of those jobs are new, and our support has seen an increase of 28% in the number of companies at i3, with the number now standing at 32.

In Ayrshire, the three local authorities have come together to prepare a bid for the Ayrshire Growth Deal and we will be submitting our initial prospectus to the UK and Scottish Governments in the next couple of weeks.

The proposals have three clear aims, and these are:

  • 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 ensure our communities benefit from economic growth

We are already working in support of these aims. Ayrshire has a long and proud history of high value manufacturing, including life sciences, with key anchor companies like GSK, DSM and Merck. We have a highly skilled workforce, and Irvine Bay has been working in an innovative partnership with the Royal Society of Edinburgh in the past two years to highlight the opportunities presented by the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics to school pupils throughout the region, and our “Talk Science” programme of expert talks, discussions and workshops has touched thousands of local young people.

Scotland is already a significant player in the life and chemical sciences, fuelled largely by our world-class research. But the scale of the potential global markets is staggering and we currently have a tiny percentage of that market.

If we are to see that percentage rise, we need to tap into the potential of areas like Ayrshire, with its ability and determination to break through barriers to deliver across the four “i”s.

This article was published in the Scotsman as part of a 4 page supplement following the event on 1 March 2016.