Pandemic provides boost for Scottish life sciences tech investment

Life sciences became the most popular area for equity investment into tech-focused smaller businesses in Scotland last year, as the pandemic increased interest in healthcare technology.

New analysis from the British Business Bank shows that investment in Scotland’s smaller life sciences companies reached £61 million during the first nine months of 2021 - 42 per cent higher than the figure for the whole of 2020, at £43m.

Using Beauhurst data that tracks equity investment in high-growth businesses, the bank found that equity investment into smaller businesses in Scotland’s thriving technology industry as a whole reached £163m by the end of the third quarter of 2021, which was 36 per cent higher than 2020’s total of £121m.

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Life sciences was ahead of software for investment in smaller businesses in Scotland’s technology sector, representing 37 per cent of the total figure. Software accounted for some £37m, equivalent to a 23 per cent share, during the nine months to the end of September 2021 - on track to exceed the £43m total for 2020.

During the build up to Glasgow hosting the COP26 climate change conference last November, smaller businesses in the clean technology sector attracted £24m of investment, up sharply on the £6m recorded during 2020, with data from the final three months of 2021 still to be captured.

The findings follow the British Business Bank’s Small Business Finance Markets report, which recently found that total equity investment in Scotland’s smaller businesses had topped £403m during the first nine months of 2021, exceeding the entire previous year’s £279m by 44 per cent.

Mark Sterritt, UK network director, Scotland at the British Business Bank, said: “It is highly encouraging to see a significant increase to equity investment in Scotland’s smaller tech businesses.

“These are the high-growth, innovative companies that will help drive the wider economy in the years ahead and that they are looking to equity as a way of funding recovery and growth points towards a renewed sense of optimism after a highly challenging 2020.

New analysis shows that investment in Scotland’s smaller life sciences companies reached £61 million during the first nine months of 2021 - 42 per cent higher than the figure for the whole of 2020. Picture: Jon Savage

“Although there are clear headwinds in the form of cost inflation, supply chain pressures, and geopolitical tension, 2022 will hopefully see a return to more normal trading conditions as the year progresses. With that, we would also hope to see more companies switch to focus on growth having understandably been in survival mode for much of the past two years.”

He added: “Wherever high-growth potential businesses are based in the UK, it is more important than ever that they can access funding to achieve their goals. We have a range of programmes across the country already in place to address geographical funding gaps - with details of our £150m regional fund for Scotland to be announced in due course.”

In 2021, the British Business Bank announced the launch of its £375m Future Fund: Breakthrough funding, which aims to support private investors co-investment with the government in high-growth, innovative firms. The programme began making its first investments in the opening months of 2022.

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The bank’s core programmes support more than £8.5 billion of finance to some 95,000 smaller businesses.

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