Scottish firms to benefit from UK's £168m tech funding boost
Further cash for the unit will come from New-York-listed Life Technologies, Pebble Appeal and the Wellcome Trust, as well as the university itself. Willetts also pledged £3.5 million for business-led projects in the field of Synthetic Biology, which uses engineering techniques to help develop biological devices and systems with real potential to drive significant advances in biomedicine.
Scott Johnstone, chief executive of the Scottish Lifesciences Association (SLA) trade body, said: “This is great news for an important sector. Scotland is well known for innovation in this area and extra funding to promote this is valuable. We welcome the inclusion of business-led funding.”
Julia Brown, Senior Life Sciences Director at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Scotland is recognised as one of the world-leading clusters of…[biomedicine] research.” She said the agency was looking at ways for research to be translated into commercial opportunities. Brown added: “This fund will be key in helping to do this.”
Among others, King's College London will acquire £15 million for a cancer research centre at Guy's Hospital, and Southampton University will receive £10 million for its engineering facilities. The remaining £34 million will go towards a data research network.
News of the investments came as a report from the BioIndustry Association trade body reported that the UK has the “strongest bioscience cluster in Europe”. Despite a lack of traditional venture capital funding, British companies raised more than £300 million last year, including via licensing deals. The report's findings echo a speech made on Wednesday night by finance secretary John Swinney, who revealed the life sciences sector's contribution to the Scottish economy rose by 9% year-on-year to £960 million in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available.
Swinney told an audience of 300 business leaders at the SLA annual dinner that the number of people working in the sector rose by 18% over the same period to 17,300. Of particular note, he hailed the initial success of the Health Innovation Partnership, which is being run by the SLA for the Scottish Government to bring together NHS Scotland and businesses to develop technology specifically for the healthcare sector. Swinney revealed: “In only six months, the SLA has already supported 25 companies to establish in-depth links with clinicians.”