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Scotland leading the UK in life science start-up growth, report reveals

Published on 20/11/19 at 03:20pm

A new report published by the life science incubator and business collective BioCity has painted a promising picture of UK start-up prosperity – one that draws particular attentions to Scotland for its successes within the wider union.

The UK Life Science Start-Up Report, authored by ex-CEO and current BioCity Chairman Dr Glenn Crocker, collates and analyses almost a decade and a half of data on the UK’s life science sector, in particular the prevalence of start-up companies over the past five years. This data included the total number of such companies by region, their scientific focus or focuses, their investment and funding status, and their alignment with universities.

With all this considered, the report claims that the past five years have been a “baby boom” for the sector during which time it saw “an unprecedented period of growth”. Perhaps most notably, Scotland is leading the other constituent countries of the UK, with the country boasting a greater number of start-ups – the highest-ever recorded as operating in the country according to BioCity’s report.

This success and growth was felt most strongly in Edinburgh and Greater Glasgow, which eclipsed other regions in terms of rapid expansion. Elsewhere, Aberdeen was also a focal point of this growth. These three regions boasted the lion’s share of this phenomenon: in total, the trio accounted for 84% of the overall number of Scottish start-ups, suggesting that growth in this area is increasingly moving to gravitate towards one of these central hubs, in close proximity to other early-stage firms in the sector. 

Part of the explanation for the country’s success in this regard is credited as a product of its greater successes in securing grant funding: according to the report, Scottish companies generated the highest average grant funding, edging ahead of London and the South East of England. Scotland’s record number of life science start-ups represents just 11% of the UK total, but 21% of its total funding, according to the report. Furthermore, 28% of this funding is derived from grants, compared to 5% of London companies.

“Both the number of companies starting up and the amount invested in them has taken off,” commented Dr Crocker. “We have seen a 50% increase in the number of companies and a four-fold increase in investment going into them; this will likely result in a substantial increase in the demand for space. We estimate that this cohort of businesses alone could require 1.4 million square feet of specialist facilities over the next five years. One consequence of this demand growth is that real estate investors are being increasingly attracted to the sector.”

Matt Fellows

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