Scotland's life sciences sector: world class innovation and invention

Scotland is the ideal location to build your life sciences career, with world-leading research expertise across human healthcare, animal and plant sciences, aquaculture, agritech and industrial biotechnology.

Drug Discovery

Our national health service, NHS Scotland, is also a hub of clinical expertise and data-driven innovation, equipping all its patients with a unique identifier and electronic health record.

Life sciences leader

  • Scotland has one of the largest life sciences clusters in Europe, employing more than 41,000 people across some 770 organisations. 
  • Turnover in the sector is in excess of £6.5 billion – an action plan is in place to help grow this to £8 billion by 2025.
  • Scotland has a history of drug discovery excellence, including some of the world’s best-selling drugs.
  • Scotland has the largest concentration of animal health and aquaculture researchers in Europe. 
  • A new £56 million Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre – a UK and world first – is being built in Scotland to accelerate the development of next-generation medicines.


Scotland’s world class reputation in life sciences and legacy of innovation in medicine attracts highly skilled workers and leading international scientists from around the globe.

Opportunities exist within organisations covering medical technologies, pharma services, regenerative medicine, animal health, aquaculture and precision medicine. Scottish universities are world leaders in life sciences research and more than 15,000 students a year graduate in biological sciences, medicine and related subjects.


The Scottish life sciences cluster is a dynamic community of more than 770 organisations, from global multinationals to innovative start-ups. Companies include:

  • GlaxoSmithKline – the global pharma company has been manufacturing in Scotland for almost 70 years.
  • Thermo Fisher Scientific – a provider of laboratory products, scientific instrumentation and services, including COVID-19 testing products.
  • Charles River Laboratories - provides research services for all stages of the drug discovery process and set up its Scottish operation in the 1940s.
  • PPD Development – a global contract research organization with offices in 46 countries.
  • Amphista Therapeutics - based at BioCity in North Lanarkshire, a biopharmaceutical company creating therapeutics that target disease-causing proteins.
  • Omega Diagnostics – a developer and manufacturer of diagnostic tests, including rapid coronavirus tests.
  • Sartorius Stedim Biotech – a biopharma services company headquartered in France.
  • ScotBio – uses biotechnology to produce natural ingredients and colourants for the food industry.
  • Q2 Solutions – a laboratory services specialist supporting global drug development by processing biological samples from clinical trials across the world.
  • RoslinCT – a contract developer and manufacturer of cell and gene therapies that is establishing a new Cell and Gene Training Academy.
  • Symbiosis Pharma – based in Stirling, provides manufacturing services to global biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies developing novel drug therapies and vaccines.


Job types

Life sciences spans a huge variety of jobs. They range from research scientists to quality assurance specialists, data scientists, sales professionals, production and processing specialists, financial accountants and test engineers. Other roles include project schedulers, technicians, laboratory managers, shipping clerks, analysts, clinicians – and many more.

Academic excellence

Fifteen of Scotland’s 19 universities perform research ranked as world-leading within life sciences, healthcare and related disciplines. Key centres of excellence include:

Supportive business environment

Scotland is one of the most accessible, well-connected and collaborative life sciences clusters in Europe. Networks and projects include:

Quality of life

Scotland is a land of great natural beauty and strong heritage and our warmth and generosity are world- renowned. Our friendly communities offer an exceptional quality of life, while progressive government policies strive to make Scotland an even fairer and better place to live and work for everyone. This includes a recognition of the importance of a bio-based economy to achieve environmental sustainability.

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