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Edinburgh’s quest for innovation


Education has long been a part of Edinburgh’s DNA, hosting as it does Scotland’s largest and oldest educational institution, the University of Edinburgh, which was founded in 1582. Alongside this, the city is also home to Napier University, Heriot-Watt University, Queen Margaret University and Scotland Rural College.

This multitude of universities gives investors access to a number of R&D projects, a well-educated workforce and a number of spin-outs. Edinburgh Innovations, the innovation management service for the University of Edinburgh, is designed to connect academic expertise with industry to drive innovation, nurture spin-outs and facilitate interested investors.

In an interview with Investment Monitor, David Ridd, business development, communications and marketing manager of Edinburgh BioQuarter, says of the city’s success:

“It has fostered a number of recent spin-outs within healthcare innovation that have been funded by some big venture capital investors.”

With such high levels of education, it perhaps follows that Edinburgh has seen ‘smart’ sectors such as fintech and life sciences blossom. A good example of this being utilised is Edinburgh BioQuarter, a partnership between Edinburgh City Council, NHS Lothian, Scottish Enterprise and the University of Edinburgh, which has seen £500m invested in new facilities with a further £1bn planned for future development.

Ridd expands on what the BioQuarter does. “ It is essentially a science park and research campus,” he explains. “It delivers numerous outputs including incubating new companies and providing innovation support. The site itself delivers through the NHS hospitals also, so it is really a site completely focused on delivering, solving and tackling global health challenges.”

The BioQuarter currently hosts approximately 8,000 employees, with a large proportion working in the hospitals in patient-facing roles. Approximately 3,000 workers are focused on research, including various medicine and sciences students.

Ridd adds: “ All of these things work together and interlock, which leads to this experimental, translational science. At the heart of it, it is about creating new products for patients and researching new treatments and technologies to advance global healthcare.”

Impressively, the hub is home to Europe’s largest concentration of stem cell scientists, and Ridd highlights that the BioQuarter is open to investment.

“BioQuarter will formally launch an Official Journal of the EU procurement process in the first quarter of 2021 for a private sector partner to develop its £1bn [gross development value] Health Innovation District,” he says. “At the end of 2020, we had a bidders day that attracted interest from companies around the world.”

Extract’ from ‘Culture and Covid loom large For Edinburgh’, by Ruth Strachan, published in Investment Monitor 26 Jan 2021. Read full article

Alongside life sciences, Edinburgh is also keen to grasp opportunities in data and data centres. The new £68m Usher Hub for Health and Social Care data will sit at the heart of BioQuarter and is part of a £1.4 billion investment to establish Edinburgh as the “Data Capital of Europe”.