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Life Science Start-Ups Told To Look To Overseas Rivals For Lucrative Lessons

Life science start-ups told to look to overseas rivals for lucrative lessons

SCOTLAND'S life science companies are being urged by the new head of their networking body to learn lessons from overseas rivals.
Graeme Boyle, the director of Nexxus, the central Scotland life science network, said firms could grow their businesses by emulating some of the techniques used in California.

He said business people from the Scottish sector could share experiences with scientists who are just starting out in the industry, teaching them about the pitfalls to avoid and how to go about running their companies.

Boyle likened the idea to the programmes already in place at the Entrepreneurial Exchange, an organisation in which members share their words of wisdom to help one another grow their businesses.

He said it was also worth revisiting the existing concept of "corporate venturing", through which larger companies would invest equity in smaller outfits rather than just partnering with them to develop new products.

While the technique is not without risks – such as the larger companies simply buying out the smaller firms – he said the idea was worth exploring as it had worked in the US.

His comments come after representatives from the Scottish life sciences sector – including Nexxus, Scottish Enterprise and Edinburgh Science Triangle – last week met Matt Gardener, the chief executive of Bay Bio, a trade body in California.

Boyle said that collaborations between Scottish and California firms could also be fruitful. "In Scotland we have a healthy and vibrant academic sector in terms of life sciences," he said.

"The strengths we have in terms of stem cells, translational medicine and contract research organisations can lead to partnerships being struck profitably."

He said that the Americans could also learn from the infrastructure that Scotland has for launching spin-out companies from its universities and research institutions. Scottish Enterprise's funding schemes for start-up companies have already been studied by governments in New Zealand and the Canadian province of Ontario.

Boyle – a biochemist who set up A Half MV Squared – a technology consultancy that helps companies develop new products – was appointed Nexxus director in August.

Dr John March, chief executive and co-founder of Big DNA, a Roslin vaccine development firm, welcomed Boyle's ideas.

"This could be very beneficial to start-up companies," March said. "When I set up Big DNA, I didn't have a clue what I was doing. It wasn't until about a year later I found a company, Powder Med, working in a similar area to us and I was able to speak to them about the challenges we faced."

An economic impact assessment compiled last year by Biggar Economics revealed that Nexxus – set up in 2003 to improve communication between universities, the NHS and private businesses – had generated £2.9 million of gross value added (GVA), meaning that for every pound of funding Nexxus received the organisation created £3.65 of GVA. Nexxus was also responsible for the creation of up to 64 full-time jobs.

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