Successfully blending the skills, needs and goals of academia, the NHS and Scotland’s Life Sciences companies is key in ensuring the country maintains its global leading position in innovation and commercialisation.
Enhancing collaboration will be key in driving innovation and ultimately in providing better healthcare solutions to the public as well as generating profits for our businesses.
The sector in Scotland works in a unique way, in that we are small enough to be well joined up. Neither academia nor industry could function without input from or links with the NHS.
The importance of an improved joined-up approach features heavily in the Life Sciences Strategy, published in February 2107, as well as the UK and Scottish industrial strategies.
We have to be running even faster to create a better system and have the potential to deliver world-leading solutions. What we want to create for Scotland can be delivered to the global market and that us where the real tangible benefits lie for business.
Commercial and academic research is taking place on NHS campuses in Aberdeen as well as Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh and we are all pulling in the same direction.
In terms of who is going to drive the improvements, we need to protect our entrepreneurial talent and ensure they are in a position to take things forward. To do this we need to provide a business environment that nurtures the talent we have and produces roles for those entrepreneurs to start with or to move into and make Scotland a place where people want to come and be involved.
We are moving in the right direction, we need to move faster and continue dialogue as well as spinning more companies out and helping them to scale-up faster in a “smart” way as one strand of the triple helix opportunity of innovation across academia, industry and NHS in Scotland.
When the system works it is brilliant. There are many great examples of companies linking with academia and the NHS. For example, the infrastructure involved at the Queen Elizabeth II University Hospital in Glasgow was built to have laboratory buildings connecting all parties together under one roof.
The successes address real, current healthcare needs and allow us to tackle modern epidemics such as anti-microbial resistance and dementia by using approaches such as digital health and big data.
We are approaching a crossroads. Scotland has led the way in innovation and commercialisation for some time. The country’s Life Sciences Sector can continue to do so, however we have to ensure everyone has the opportunity to play their part to allow us to achieve this.
By Dr Deborah A. O’Neil, strategy-lead for Innovation and Commercialisation