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.

5. Appendix

Data source

  • The data in this analysis comes from Export Statistics Scotland (ESS) 2019, which represents official estimates of the value of Scotland’s exports for 2019
  • ESS estimates the value of exports of both goods and services. It excludes exports of oil and gas although it does include support services to this sector
  • ESS includes information on international exports, including EU and non-EU, as well as exports to the rest of the UK (although this analysis is based on international exports only)
  • More information on this data is available via the link below Export statistics Scotland: 2019 – (

Life sciences sector definition

  • The figures on export value and number of exporting businesses for the life sciences sector used in this plan were estimated using the following method:
  • Scottish Enterprise (SE) maintain a database of companies involved in research, product and technology development, services, and support within the life sciences sector
  • The businesses in this database were matched into the ESS 2019 data based on their reporting unit:
  • In addition to the businesses from this list, we included all businesses in the ESS 2019 data that fall under the core life sciences SIC codes:
    • there was a 90% successful match, so 10% of businesses from this database were not included and there are a variety of potential reasons for this that we are still exploring
  • Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) 2007 codes are used to classify business establishments by the main type of economic activity in which they are engaged


  • All businesses under SIC 21 are categorised as pharmaceuticals
  • All businesses under SIC 26.6 & 32.5 are categorised as medtech
  • All remaining businesses are allocated by SE to a subsector among: medtech, pharma services & contract research, agritech (plant science and animal and fish health), professional services, digital health, therapeutics, other

Based on this definition, the estimated total value of Scotland’s life sciences exports from 2010 to 2019 is published here: Life sciences cluster.

Further detailed breakdowns are available below.

Estimated export value for Scotland’s life sciences businesses in 2019
Sector/subsector Estimated export value (£ million) Percentage of life sciences total exports
MedTech 1,210 40%
Pharma Services and contract research 630 21%
Pharmaceuticals 450 15%
Agritech 330 11%
Other subsectors 280 9%
Professional Services 65 2%
Digital Health
Life sciences total 3,010 100%

Source: Export Statistics Scotland 2019

Estimated export value and number of businesses in Scotland’s Life Sciences sector by size of business in 2019
Size of business Estimated export value (£ million) Percentage of life sciences total exports Number of businesses Percentage of total businesses
Small (0 – 49 employees) 220 7% 510 83%
Medium (50 – 249 employees) 965 32% 90 14%
Large (>250 employees) 1,830 61% 20 3%
All life sciences businesses 3,010 100% 620 100%

Source: Export Statistics Scotland 2019

Top five destination countries for Scotland’s life science exports in 2019


2 Germany

3 Netherlands

4 France

5 Switzerland

Source: Export Statistics Scotland 2019

Note: Values in these tables have been rounded to the nearest £5 Million and subsectors which do not have exports greater than £50 Million are shown as “-“.



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