North east research and innovation is leading the way for a more collaborative Scotland

Leigh Mair (InnoScot Health)

InnoScot Health’s Innovation Manager for the north of Scotland, Leigh Mair discusses the region’s vast life sciences opportunity:

THE life sciences sector in the north east continues to go from strength to strength – and I’m certain that this month’s Scottish Life Sciences Summit in Aberdeen will be nothing short of a statement of intent to that effect.

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The event, taking place on 20 March at the University of Aberdeen’s King’s College Conference Centre, is the region’s third biennial life sciences summit, bringing together industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors who enable and enhance development pipelines with their invaluable support.

It will see experts analysing and discussing the steps necessary to turn innovative, collaborative ideas into exciting commercial propositions, further strengthening our regional and national fortunes.

It is not hyperbole to say that events like these can be utterly transformative. One simple conversation of the like-minded could lead to incredible cutting-edge developments in treatments for some of society’s most debilitating diseases.

They will be built on strong foundations. In 2024, the north east is now a thriving hub of leading life sciences enterprises and can lay claim to helping make numerous advancements across significant health challenges through excellence in biologics research and the region’s dynamic and growing collection of clinical stage biotech companies.

Thanks partly to last year’s opening of the multi-partnership led ONE BioHub and its ambitious, forward-thinking strategy, we stand on the edge of even greater growth, pioneering research, and groundbreaking achievement.

Its target is to double the number of companies in the region’s life sciences cluster by 2027 – and it’s certainly not an unreasonable one thanks to the vast potential already on show in the north east, including a strong track record of successfully accelerating spinouts and startups, of scaling up existing enterprises, and fresh steps being taken to unify and extend the triple helix of NHS, industry, and academia.

Fundamentally, our regional abundance of talent and expertise in life sciences now has a nurturing centre of enhanced learning for both the entrepreneurial community and growth sector to meet and collaborate on the road to commercialisation, meaning better health and prosperity. ONE BioHub is no less than a gateway that helps to get solutions into patients’ hands quicker.

The north east’s strength further lies in an intuitive confidence in knowing how to take on the world. That singular vision helped to make Aberdeen the energy capital of Europe, and the same determination is now permeating its life sciences goals.

It should be no surprise then that international partners are now being targeted by ONE, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Only last month, north east entrepreneurs received training at MIT, while ONE BioHub received its own visitors in the form of investors from the US and Europe.

Entrepreneurism underpins the entire endeavour – a trait which the region has proved itself adept at and which investors continue to find highly attractive, helping to provide a uniquely fertile environment in one location.

Together, ONE BioHub and the Foresterhill campus make for Europe’s largest single-site health campus, boasting over 2,500 clinicians, entrepreneurs, and academics as part of a streamlined, progressive ecosystem.

Exploring innovative and collaborative new ideas within our healthcare systems is vital to the work of formal NHS partner InnoScot Health.

Like ONE BioHub, entrepreneurism is a key focus for us – supporting those who see opportunities to innovate and develop their ideas for the benefit of patients – and as Scotland continues to push for Net Zero, those ideas can be pivotal to meeting environmental challenges.

As part of my role as innovation manager for the north of Scotland, I continue to collaborate strongly with healthcare innovators across Grampian and the Highlands and Islands and there are an incredible amount of people looking at fresh sustainable approaches.

Against today’s backdrop of renewal and transformation, it is essential that InnoScot Health helps to deliver more for less while urgently reducing the environmental impact which affects so many, both across Scotland and globally.

Entrepreneurial life sciences innovators can make a big contribution to that effort by submitting their ideas to us – an important first step in the process – and are well-placed to spot and exploit the gaps that can lead to sustainable growth and better health outcomes.

With Scotland’s life sciences expertise amongst the best in the world, we must harness that existing know-how in research, startups, and inward investment for further innovation.

I see so much fresh opportunity and can’t wait to attend the summit to learn more about what’s coming next.

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