Scotland’s life sciences sector poised for growth

Chris Dougray, Head of Development at CBRE Scotland

Further investment in high quality lab and research space is vital if the life sciences sector in Scotland is to continue to grow, according to leading real estate advisor CBRE.

Speaking at an event in Edinburgh, Chris Dougray, Head of Development at CBRE Scotland, and Chris Williams, CBRE’s Head of Life Sciences, joined forces to examine the burgeoning sector’s place in Scotland.

The importance of world-class science parks and innovation hubs where academia and the public sector can collaborate was top of the agenda, with discussion highlighting Scotland’s success in this area and underlining opportunities for further development.

Dougray said: “Edinburgh is already the top spot for innovation in the UK outside the Golden Triangle of Greater London, Oxford and Cambridge, according to research from the British Business Bank, with Glasgow in third place. Both have thriving life sciences ecosystems built on a solid foundation of world-leading academic and research institutions and a rich talent pool.

“In the capital, Edinburgh BioQuarter was one of the first places in the UK to co-locate academic research, clinical delivery and commercial research at scale, providing state-of-the-art infrastructure, funding opportunities and collaborative spaces for businesses. Its dedicated incubator facility aims to help accelerate the formation and growth of innovative new ventures, including university spinouts.

“In Glasgow, specialist developer Kadans Science Partner has announced the construction of a Health Innovation Hub in the city’s Govan area, due to complete in summer 2025. Supported by Scottish Enterprise with links to the University of Glasgow and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, the hub aims to pave the way for a burgeoning life sciences cluster in the area.

“By delivering first-class environments that facilitate collaboration between public and private sector, there is a unique opportunity for Scotland to take a leading role in the advancement of health innovation in Europe.”

The event also touched on timely opportunities for Scotland’s pharmaceuticals sector to capitalise on the current trend towards more localised supply chains.

Dougray explained: “In the UK there is an over-reliance on overseas markets for the manufacturing of many drugs, with only 25% of the UK’s medicines currently produced at home. These concerns were exacerbated by the pandemic. As an industry leader in pharmaceutical manufacture, Scotland is in a prime position to drive forward change by increasing homegrown output, bolstering UK supply chain resilience, attracting new companies and talent, and securing investment.”

While the stage has been set for notable acceleration in Scotland’s life sciences sector in the years ahead, ensuring supply of high-quality space was deemed crucial to maximising growth.

Dougray continued: “The provision of high-quality Grade A space will be critical to the further development of the science and innovation landscape in Scotland. Labs and technology generally consume a great deal of energy, therefore occupiers in the life sciences sector are increasingly calling out for energy efficient labs which can significantly reduce costs as well as helping to minimise carbon emissions. Without accommodation to meet the specific needs of occupiers, we risk losing spinouts and talent to England.”

Across Scotland, the Life Sciences sector provides 41,700 jobs across 700 diverse businesses and Higher Education Institutions, and CBRE’s 2023 Which City? Which Sector?1 report identified it as being in the top three growth sectors for Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Yet, the event highlighted the need for greater investment in this area if its full potential is to be realised in Scotland.

Dougray concluded: “The opportunity is clear but the development of space for second stage businesses that have moved on from start-up stage is desperately needed. That is the challenge we must collectively work together to solve.”