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Life sciences: Evaluation of Intervention with Clusters and Industries


The Evaluation of Intervention with Clusters and Industries in Scotland aims to be a learning evaluation for Scottish Enterprise (SE) on the policy interventions pursued to date. The research objectives for this study focus on five principal learning areas: the appropriateness of cluster and industry policies and strategies; the rationale of programme selection and design in the light of strategic intent; the efficacy of cluster and industry interventions seeking to improve critical factor inputs; learning lessons and the adaptation and evolution of the approach; and broader SE support and resourcing. This report is one of the fifteen cluster- and industry-specific reports that have been prepared as background to the main report. In relation to the life sciences industry, the report focuses on: the rationale behind SE involvement in the cluster and the appropriateness of the strategy; how the cluster work has rolled out in practice and in light of expectations; and the lessons learnt and how SE should go forward.


The report has been primarily based on a desk review of the individual clusters and industries - collected and collated by SE and ECOTEC jointly. 15 interviews were also held with industry representatives, academic and research establishments, intermediaries and SE staff. The main findings and conclusions were also tested with independent sector experts and reviewed by SE stakeholders.


The sector is characterised by increasing global competition and SE intervention rationale remains strong. The cluster has demanded high levels of financial resourcing given the scale and nature of industry challenges. The cluster’s basic organisational model has generally performed well in practice and the team demonstrates high levels of industry credibility. The original ‘Framework for Action’ cluster strategy was too focused on building a large number of companies, rather than building a smaller base of quality sustainable companies. There is a lack of a critical mass of indigenous flagship companies at the cluster core. Sizeable economic impact accruing from successful academic spin outs and start-ups has yet to be properly realised. Current cluster monitoring and information systems are inadequate and the cluster team is working to develop more effective indicators and measures.


The report suggests that a more comprehensive evaluation is required and a dedicated modelling framework should be developed to establish the programme’s additionality. There are likely to be substantial growth opportunities for Scottish life sciences within scientific research and clinical trial expertise. There should be an expectation that industry requirements are liable to change over time. The cluster should also acknowledge the high risk and volatility of some braches of life sciences, with little guarantee of a quick 'pay back' from cluster activity. More efficient transfer of academic science into profitable and sustainable businesses is needed. Better information management is required to justify the link between proposed activities and the achievements of realistic outputs, outcomes and GVA. The report highlights the opportunities for future increased collaboration and knowledge sharing with other cluster and industry groups.

Published Year 2009
Report Type Evaluation
  • Enterprise
    Sector-level support
  • Sectors
    Life Sciences