The Scottish Government recently published the Campbell Report, prepared by the Life Sciences Working Group to explore options to attract increased investment in Scotland's growing life sciences sector. The sector encompasses everything from drug discovery and clinical research to digital health, AI and data driven innovation, employing 40,000 people in highly skilled roles.
The Report encourages collaboration between the public and private sectors, including universities, government agencies and private companies and investors. In order to unlock the full economic potential of the life sciences sector in Scotland more follow-on collaboration between parties and large-scale global investment will be necessary.
The Report makes 18 ambitious recommendations which collectively aim to build a national life sciences cluster, creating conditions to enable companies to scale and flourish, and ultimately to support innovation and commercialisation.
1. To build a national health innovation life science cluster, facilitate connections between different parts of the ecosystem and promote internationally
To this end, the Report recommended that the Scottish Government and Enterprise Agencies:
- Develop and maintain a digital platform to build connections within and between different parts of the life sciences ecosystem, both in Scotland and internationally.
- Develop a Net Zero health innovation life science infrastructure and commercial real estate pipeline, building on Scotland’s reputation as a world leader in the transition to Net Zero.
- Develop a health innovation life science prospectus to map out key parts of the ecosystem, signpost to innovation and commercialisation collaboration opportunities and points of contact, and clearly set out practical support available.
2. For building the enabling conditions for life science companies to scale and flourish
To achieve this the Report recommends that the Scottish Government and Enterprise Agencies:
- Review and enhance Scottish public sector support for health innovation life science scaling companies, including the grant process.
- Provide support for Scottish SMEs to access recruiters to attract, recruit and retain international growth management and entrepreneurial talent.
- Develop and maintain a network of local and international health innovation life science investors (including venture capital, private equity and institutional). This will provide facilitated access to Scottish innovation for investors. For Scottish scaling companies this will provide a network to pitch to and get feedback from.
The Report recommends that universities support the public sector and companies by:
- Working together to build on best practice and continue to develop and integrate world-leading entrepreneurial and scaling programmes into the curriculum for life science students.
- Including industry placement/SME/start-up working experience for all graduate-level courses to provide more ‘Employer Ready Graduates’.
Finally, in order to enable the right conditions for life science companies to scale and flourish the Report recommends that companies:
- Of all sizes and stages, provide placement opportunities working more closely with universities and public sector organisations to facilitate industry and start-up experience.
- At the corporate level, support entrepreneurs to explore start-up ideas, and encourage international collaboration of innovation and start-up activity through, for example, exchanges between international sites.
3. For supporting innovation and commercialisation
The Report recommends that universities work together, with support from the public sector, to create and maintain a digital online platform for life sciences and health tech/medtech intellectual property (IP) (similar to the successful Singapore model) to make IP available digitally and visible globally. The Report further recommends that the opportunity to include NHS IP on the platform should be considered.
The Report encourages the Scottish Government and Enterprise Agencies to:
- Test and develop an approach for providing support for Scottish SMEs to access advisors on standards and regulations. This should support access from the initial stages of innovation throughout the commercialisation pathway, up until regulatory approval (for local and key global markets).
- Develop increased regulatory knowledge within the Scottish public sector in order to better develop policy and support industry.
- Conduct a review of the life sciences innovation and commercialisation environment in Scotland to explore opportunities for simplifying the process for companies to access domestic and international markets, including the regulatory landscape.
- Develop and test an approach for greater risk-sharing with investors to drive innovation (e.g. innovation vouchers).
To support innovation and commercialisation the Report recommends that health and care services:
- Set out our national priorities for the attention of industrial collaborators. This should include a clear single point of contact through which to initiate discussions on future collaborations, as part of an innovation pathway that extends to procurement as part of a connected national approach.
- Develop a framework to incentivise and create the conditions to mobilise and adopt innovation across health and care services at all levels. This should maximise the huge potential to our innovation ecosystem and health and care services from making secure data available nationally for the purposes of collaborative research.
Finally, the Report recommends that trade bodies develop a playbook for key sectors/subsectors to act as a knowledge base on when and how to access Notified Bodies and regulators, and ensure the right standards are in place at the right time.
4. The future of life sciences in Scotland
While the Scottish ecosystem for start-ups in the life sciences sector remains strong, a funding gap persists for companies looking to attract the investment needed to upscale growth, for example by funding clinical trials and product development. Scaling up investment is crucial in encouraging start-ups to stay in Scotland and for the sector to keep pace with the growth of the global life sciences sector.
Without action to attract large scale investment, there is a risk that Scottish start-ups will be forced to look overseas for investment opportunities. The recommendations of the Report seek to mitigate this risk by providing a blueprint for the life sciences ecosystem in Scotland to mature and attract significant capital in a global setting. Whether the Report succeeds in these aims will depend on engagement, collaboration and effective execution from all stakeholders within the sector.