Press release

Dundee key to unlocking life sciences innovation in Scotland

Published on 11 June 2023

The importance of investing in Dundee’s Life Sciences Innovation District was highlighted as leaders of the city’s key institutions welcomed the publication of the Scottish Government’s Innovation Strategy.

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The Strategy, launched on Friday, includes a pledge to work closely with universities to design and develop a £100 million Scottish Innovation Fund to invest in early-stage companies focused on science and technology.

Professor Iain Gillespie, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee, called on the Scottish Government to recognise the University’s biomedical science base as a unique competitive advantage underpinning a fantastic economic opportunity.

The strengths of local partners such as Abertay University and James Hutton Institute mean the city is the only Scottish location with the combined expertise in life sciences, digital and AI technology to develop the infrastructure to make the sector a bedrock of the Scottish economy for the next century.

Dundee is the top university in the UK for biological sciences and has been named the world's most influential pharmaceuticals research institution, above the likes of MIT, Berkeley, Oxford and Cambridge.

Professor Gillespie said, “We’re delighted to have a Scottish Government with ambition for innovation. The key to realising that ambition is recognising the overall strength of Scotland’s research and industrial base in health, biomedical and life sciences. Here, in Dundee, we have the UK’s top University for biological sciences, combined with industry investment, and spin-out success.

“In 2021 alone, our spinout Exscientia floated on the US NASDAQ exchange with a valuation that exceeded $3 billion, while Amphista Therapeutics has raised investment of more than £40 million and concluded major contracts with global pharmaceutical companies worth up to $2.3 billion. However, both these companies have now re-located completely or substantially to the South-East of England. This is a phenomenon that we need to change.

“Getting Scotland’s innovation infrastructure right is a vital plank of the Scottish Government’s Innovation Strategy, and we’re clear that needs to start here if we’re serious about wanting to position Scotland as a world-leading, biomedical powerhouse.”

Council leader Councillor John Alexander said, “Dundee could not be better placed to play a key role in the delivery of the Scottish Government’s new Innovation Strategy. We need to build on areas where we already have a competitive advantage, and that is certainly true of biomedical science.

“Our city's academic research and development is world-leading, and we have had great success in attracting significant venture capital into new companies.

“The new Innovation District will offer greater opportunities for collaboration and economies of scale to turn research into business, secure investment and create jobs. To respond to this period of significant economic challenge, exacerbated by global events, we must invest in success and growth.

“In Dundee, additional investment will allow us to make even greater inroads towards achieving our shared vision for strong, creative, smart and sustainable city economy with jobs and opportunities for all.”

The Life Sciences Innovation District aims to:

  • Drive sustainable growth in the regional life sciences economy
  • Grow our life sciences company base
  • Deliver new attractive fit-for-purpose physical infrastructure to anchor and nurture companies at scale
  • Provide an integrated approach to talent and skills development, risk-taking and business leadership

Importantly, it will be embedded in the heart of the city and provide an environment that unlocks training opportunities, participation of local supply chains and extends equality of opportunity from under-represented groups. The project includes development of an Innovation Hub, being built at the Technopole site adjacent to the School of Life Sciences.

Key to the city’s offering is close partnership working between anchor institutions that draws on diverse strengths required to harness innovation.

Professor Colin Campbell, CEO of The James Hutton institute said, ““Innovation in life sciences and new emerging digital technologies are also fuelling plant science discovery which is incredibly strong in the region.

“The right kind of investment can drive nature-based approaches to improve and invent new ways of using plants for food, feed, energy and raw materials that are better for people and the planet. There are also exciting opportunities to develop natural plant-based medicines and health promoting compounds. “

Notes to editors

The University of Dundee’s commercialisation performance has been independently ranked: first in Scotland in Parkwalk’s “Equity Investment into UK Spin-outs” report, Octopus Ventures Entrepreneurial Impact Ranking 2020 placed Dundee 5th in the UK (1st in Scotland), and in the 2021 GovGrant Spin-out Report Dundee rated 6th in the UK.


Grant Hill

Senior Public Affairs Officer

+44 (0)1382 384768