New biotech centre could create 1,500 jobs

A new hi-tech centre could boost Scotland's economy by £130 million and create up to 1,500 jobs in the next five years.

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The Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) at Strathclyde University in Glasgow brings together a number of Scottish universities and private sector firms, including Ineos and drugs manufacturer GSK.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said it would help place Scotland "at the forefront of a global transformational change" from an economy that was largely based on fossil fuels to one that was more inclusive of industrial biotechnology.

Industrial biotechnology involves the production of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, energy and materials in a way that is both cost effective and causes minimal damage to the environment.

The market is estimated to grow so that it will be worth between £150 billion and £360 billion globally by 2025, with the UK industry anticipated to be worth £4 billion to £12 billion.

An independent assessment of IBioIC has forecast it will generate £130 million of gross value added (GVA) for the Scottish economy, creating 1,500 jobs directly and indirectly within five years.

Speaking at a launch event for the new centre in Edinburgh, Mr Swinney said: "The creation of 1,500 new jobs is a fantastic boost for Scotland's expanding biotechnology industry. Scotland's chemical industry is the country's second top exporter - equating to £3.7 billion per year - while Scotland's life sciences sector is one of the largest and fastest-growing in Europe.

"The launch of IBioIC is predicted to add £130 million to the Scottish economy and will allow Scotland to be at the forefront of global transformational change from a largely fossil fuel-based to an industrial biotechnology-inclusive economy."

IBioIC chairman Ian Shott said the new centre was a "collaboration of businesses and higher education institutions with the ambition to be truly distinctive, world-leading and responsive to the market and technology needs of industry".

He added their aim was to surpass the target set in Scotland's National Plan for Industrial Biotechnology by raising the estimated turnover of industrial biotechnology-related products from around £190 million currently to between £2 billion and £3 billion by 2030.

The new centre is being funded with £10 million from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), as well as being supported by both Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

SFC interim chief executive Laurence Howells said: "Industrial biotechnology has wide-reaching benefits for us all, whether it is turning waste into energy and products or improving the way we manufacture food, drink, vaccines and antibiotics.

"I am in no doubt of the huge contribution IBioIC will make to economic growth and job creation in Scotland, whilst reducing our impact on the environment. I'm pleased our £10 million will be used to support the essential backbone for IBioIC's ambitious mission, its facilities, equipment and staff."

A total of 13 higher education institutions in Scotland will be involved in the centre, with Strathclyde University taking a co-ordinating role.

Strathclyde University principal Professor Sir Jim McDonald said: "As a single, national facility, IBioIC will enable Scotland - with its established industry base, world-class academic expertise and natural resources - to accelerate our globally-distinctive positioning and capability in the industrial biotechnology market."

He added the new centre would "ensure that Scotland capitalises on its resources and the synergies of its industrial and academic communities to gain economic advantage in this endeavour".

Caroline Strain, head of chemical sciences at Scottish Enterprise, said there were currently around 43 businesses in Scotland that were actively involved in industrial biotechnology projects.

She added: "Working collaboratively with our private and public sector partners, we aim to support these companies to build on their existing expertise as well as encourage more businesses to consider the impact and benefits sustainable high-value manufacturing and industrial biotechnology activities can contribute to their growth journey.

"IBioIC will play a key role in this process, supporting greater innovation and collaboration between industry and academia, and help to support our ambition of Scotland becoming an international hub for industrial biotechnology excellence."

HIE chief executive Alex Paterson said: "Industrial biotechnology is important to a number of sectors across the Highlands and Islands such as renewable energy, natural products and forestry. I welcome the creation of this new Innovation Centre and the contribution it can make to the region's future growth."

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