Life sciences sector: export plan

This plan reaffirms the commitments made from ‘A Trading Nation’ to ensure our trade and investment agenda is front and centre of our economic growth strategy. Co-produced with stakeholders, this plan will work with the sector to identify how best to support Scottish businesses to grow their exports.

2. Background

2.1 Policy context

This plan has been developed to align with the existing policy framework. It is part of the delivery function for A Trading Nation: A Plan for Growing Scotland’s Exports (ATN) and will help ensure that the life sciences sector maximises its contribution towards the ambition to grow Scotland’s exports to 25% of Gross Domestic Product by 2029.

It will also make a direct contribution to the internationalisation ambitions in the industry-led Life Sciences Strategy for Scotland – Vision 2025 and help maximise the sector’s contribution to Scotland’s overarching National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET). It is underpinned by Scotland’s Vision for Trade which identifies opportunities to improve the trading environment, in line with the Scottish Government’s principles.

2.2 Analysis and consultation

Development of the plan was overseen by the Life Sciences Scotland Internationalisation Workstream and involved analysis of Export Statistics Scotland life sciences sector export data (2010 – 2019; the latest available dataset); an assessment of future opportunities; and extensive consultation with Scottish companies, GlobalScots, Scottish Development International (SDI) market specialists, trade associations and other relevant organisations.

2.3 Underpinning enablers of export growth

Industry consultation highlighted a number of areas that are fundamental to growing Scotland’s life sciences sector’s exporting capabilities, but are beyond the scope of this export specific plan (see Figure 1). The Life Sciences Scotland Industry Leadership Group, public sector and government commit to continuing to work together across the ecosystem to ensure Scotland has a strong environment for growth and companies can build on these enablers to maximise their export potential.

Figure 1: Enablers of export growth

NHS as an important partner – supporting innovation by validating and adopting Scottish products and services

Inward investment – attracting and retaining global companies

Skills – access to the right skills and attracting global talent

Access to funding – enabling scaling and investment in international markets

Availability of appropriate property – to allow companies to grow, including access to manufacturing and lab space

International connectivity/logistics – access to logistics operators and direct routes to key markets

Trading environment – working with the UK government to ensure the UK’s trade negotiations and policies support Scotland’s life sciences sector

International regulatory cooperation – reducing barriers to trade whilst maintaining high regulatory standards, using opportunities for regulatory cooperation with like-minded trading partners

2.4 Scotland’s life sciences company base

Scotland’s life sciences company base is diverse, comprising multi-nationals, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and innovative start-ups. This diversity has been the foundation for exports to reach £3 Bn in 2019 – an 82% increase from 2010. International trade is already embedded in the sector with available data indicating that a high proportion of companies already export (see Appendix 1 for further information about the export data analysis).

Figure 2: Sector profile (2019)[1]

Employment: 30,600

No of Enterprises: 707

Turnover: £7.4 Bn

International sales: £3.0 Bn

With an established track record of international growth, and a sector well-positioned to deliver on future opportunities across life sciences, further interventions to increase exports will only add to the strength of the sector in Scotland.



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