Life sciences and biotech

With more than 770 life sciences organisations employing more than 41,000 people, Scotland is one of the largest life sciences clusters in Europe. From global pharmaceutical companies to medical biotechnology startups, we’ve got the networks, support and skills you need to succeed.

7% growth each year

On track to reach a turnover of £8bn by 2025.

£56 million innovation centre

The industry-led Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre is a world-first.

£50 million venture capital fund

Led by Epidarex Capital for early stage, high growth, life science and health technology companies.

Life sciences snapshot

Scotland’s exciting life sciences sector covers everything from agritech and aquaculture, to medical devices and diagnostics, clinical applications, pharmaceutical services and healthcare.

The sector contributes £2.4 billion gross value added to the Scottish economy and has seen 7% growth each year since 2010.

A strong collaboration across industry, the NHS (Scotland’s unified healthcare provider), universities and government makes Scotland a truly unique place for the life sciences sector. We have a strong track record of successful, efficient and safe clinical trials and have a number of innovation centres and centres of excellence to support businesses.

Opportunities in life sciences in Scotland (PDF, 2MB)

Opportunities in medical technologies and diagnostics in Scotland (PDF, 744kB)

Opportunities in digital health and care in Scotland (PDF, 3MB)

Work in a collaborative environment

Thanks to the close relationship with the NHS, companies in Scotland enjoy coordinated access to clinical investigators and patients through a single point of contact.

The Life Sciences Scotland Industry Leadership Group (LSS ILG) also help to facilitate collaboration by helping government policy-makers work with the industry to make sure Scotland remains an attractive place for companies in the life sciences sector.

“People tell us that there are not many places in the world where you can come and actually work with academics from universities and the NHS.”

Chris Packard, research and development director, NHS Scotland 

Our skills and expertise

Over 41,000 people currently work in our life sciences sector, delivering invaluable expertise and innovative thinking. In 2018, 35,000 students graduated with undergraduate or postgraduate degrees in various scientific subjects, many of whom will bring new skills, ideas and research to the sector.  

2018 graduate stats

Biological sciences: 7,025

Including 5,065 undergraduates and 1,955 postgraduates

Subjects allied to medicine: 8,365

Including 5,730 undergraduates and 2,640 postgraduates

Engineering and technology: 6,020

Including 3,725 undergraduates and 2,295 postgraduates


Get the latest updates from Scotland’s life sciences & biotech industry

Why GSK continues to invest in Scotland

Scotland is home to a thriving biocluster, providing the ideal environment for innovation and company growth. This attracts global companies from around the world, including GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Between its two sites in Montrose and Irvine, GSK has a 100 years of manufacturing experience in Scotland.

Read more about why GSK chose to set up in Scotland

A prime site for clinical trials

Thanks to strong collaboration with the NHS, running clinical trials in Scotland is a streamlined and efficient process, offering globally competitive trial recruitment and start-up times. Scotland can offer:

  • Rapid recruitment thanks to a single national database of 5.3 million patient records
  • Quick permission times – around 3 weeks for commercial projects and just under 2 weeks for non-commercial projects.
  • A single point of access to clinical and research expertise
  • Fast and efficient identification and coordination of multi-centre clinical research
  • An extensive bio-banking resource that’s unrivalled in Europe.

This makes Scotland the ideal place for phase I, II and III clinical trials, post-market surveillance, biostatistics, regulatory compliance, data management and study monitoring. 

A world-first innovation centre

New £56 million Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (MMIC) to be based in Scotland.

The UK innovation centre will revolutionise how medicines are manufactured and speed up the process of bringing new drugs to market. It aims to attract more than £80 million in research and development (R&D) investment by 2028. It will offer a unique service aimed at developing and adopting novel manufacturing techniques that pharma companies can use in their own manufacturing processes.

“There is no other facility like this in the world and is a fantastic endorsement of Scotland as an ideal place to invest in global excellence in high value manufacturing drawing on our skills, innovative companies and academic expertise.”

Linda Hanna, interim chief executive, Scottish Enterprise

Centres of excellence

Biocluster sites in Scotland include:

Scottish Health Research and Innovation Ecosystem

Search our directory to explore the health research and innovation landscape in Scotland including the NHS, clinical, academic and trade organisations. 

Exporting from Scotland

Exporting from Scotland is a streamlined process thanks to our excellent worldwide networks. In 2017, the life sciences and biotech sector generated £1.3bn in exports.

Find out more about exporting and access to markets

Life science, biotech and pharmaceutical companies in Scotland

Curious about the kind of companies that thrive here? Looking for potential partners? Here are just a few of the life sciences companies that call Scotland home:

  • Optos
  • Quintiles
  • Encap Capsugel
  • Clyde Biosciences
  • Biopta
  • Roslin Cells
  • NuCana

Read more about the following companies in our success stories section:

From diagnostics to therapeutics, the Scottish Life and Chemical Sciences Directory is your gateway to over 1000 companies and organisations in Scotland.

Further information

You might also be interested in

Drug discovery and clinical trials

Scotland leads on potential Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.

Our people and skills

Find out more about the workforce and skills you’ll have access to in Scotland.

Commercial opportunities

Explore opportunities for your business at Edinburgh BioQuarter, a world-class life sciences cluster that’s home to two major hospitals, University of Edinburgh research institutes and growing companies.

Get the latest updates from Scotland’s life sciences and biotech industry