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Export figures show that Scotland’s chemical sciences sector is growing, and is set to become a major European player. 

A thriving sector

Scotland’s chemical sciences sector already makes a major contribution to the country’s economic growth, and it is an important player in the European market.  In 2012, the sector generated a turnover of £8.7bn of which £4.5bn was exported.  

While chemical sector exports vary to some extent from year to year because of oil price fluctuations, the clear upward trend seen over the past few years is already underpinning Chemical Sciences Scotland’s ambition to grow exports by 50%. 

Indeed, the sector already accounts for just over 17% of all Scotland’s international exports, placing the sector second only to the food and drink industry, which exported £4.7bn in 2012.

Scotland’s global profile has attracted several of the top global chemical companies, including  Dupont Teijin (US/Japan), Exxon (US), Ineos (Switzerland), Syngenta (Switzerland) and FujiFilm (Japan) to operate and invest  in Scotland. They are among the 200 chemical sciences companies currently operating in Scotland employing a total of 70,000 people, 13,500 of these directly.

Adapting to global changes

Dr Sandy Dobbie, chairman of Chemical Sciences Scotland (CSS) believes that recent events will give Scotland a competitive edge in Europe following the shift in the balance of global supplies.

“The emergence of the Middle East as a major petrochemicals source and the recent US shale gas revolution, which has reinvigorated that country’s manufacturing sector, will accelerate the closure of many of Europe’s refineries that are based on naphtha as they will no longer be competitive against low cost gas-based producers in the Middle East and US.

"Fortunately, the INEOS refinery at Grangemouth is one of the few facilities in Europe able to process gas as well as oil feedstock and Ineos’s £300m investment to  ship low cost gas from the US into Scotland will give us the opportunity to become one of the survivors of the coming European shake-out.”

Scotland's chemical sciences sector
Scotland's chemical sciences exports have reached £4.5bn
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If Scotland is to build on its current success, Dr Dobbie believes innovation and collaboration are also essential. 

“It’s vital that industry and academia work closely together to ensure innovation takes place here and is commercially exploited here rather than anywhere else.  We want to be both the  originator and  the manufacturer of new products.

“In the long term we also need to develop emerging areas such as industrial biotechnology – making more products from raw material such as grasses, forestry products and marine organisms – and we believe that Scotland has the potential to generate £900m in turnover by 2025 by becoming a world leader in this sector.

" The recent establishment of IBioIC, the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre and the publication of the National Industrial Biotechnology plan are critical steps on that pathway.”

Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, says he is delighted with the progress to date in the chemical science sector and is keen for this to continue.

“Whether it’s been sustaining high export levels, innovation in products and processes or the development of valuable inward investment and supply chain projects, Scotland has worked itself to the forefront of excellence in this area with the help of Chemical Sciences Scotland. 

"There’s no doubt that the chemical sciences sector will play a key role in the country’s future prosperity and the Scottish Government looks forward to working with the sector to achieve further progress in this important field.”

Dr Dobbie added that Scotland has an impressive output of graduates from its universities to take the chemical sciences sector forward. 

Four of Scotland’s chemistry departments are in the UK top 10, including The Edinburgh and St Andrews Research School of Chemistry (EaStChEM) at number one.  

Scotland’s 13 universities and six colleges, all renowned for research and teaching excellence in chemistry and engineering, together produce 500 graduates per year.

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