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Analysis of mentoring available to Scottish Life Science companies


This report outlines the findings from a study into mentoring services available to Scottish companies in the Life Sciences sector, based on work undertaken between February and April 2015. The objectives of the study were to: identify and provide a detailed summary of organisations offering mentoring services with specialist life science expertise accessible to Scottish companies; describe the services provided; provide a commentary of the mentoring provision for Life Science companies including current usage, areas of strong provision, gaps and the range of services a firm could access as it develops; and make recommendations as to where mentors could contribute to the support landscape.


The main study method used was stakeholder consultation supplemented by desk research. The following groups were consulted: elements of the public sector support network; private sector investors; industry membership organisations; business incubation centres; and formal mentoring services.


Overall, the extent of mentoring activity in the Life Sciences is low, with support sought more likely to be in relation to specific business issues and from a variety of people rather than a single point of contact. The majority of current mentoring activity appears to be initiated and maintained through informal networks, mainly comprising business people involved in the sector, or from referrals from business support organisations or investors. Formal mentoring programmes are restricted to the start-up stage and are non-sector specific, with only a small proportion of mentees coming from Life Sciences. There was a broad consensus amongst stakeholders that there is a lack of demand for mentoring services amongst Life Sciences firms, preferring instead to access advice on specific issues from multiple sources through informal networks. Identified mentoring services included: four Scottish Enterprise (SE) supported programmes; services provided by membership organisations, although these are rare; services provided by knowledge exchange organisations; private investment; business incubation centres; public sector support organisations, although these tend to have little involvement with the Life Sciences; and three formal mentoring services, which, again, have limited experience in the Life Sciences. The main identified weakness was a lack of supply of experienced mentors due to a lack of serial entrepreneurs and senior managers with small business experience. Further weaknesses include difficulties for businesses accessing customers, a gap in support provision between the start-up and high growth phases and a lack of venture capital funding for those looking to progress beyond the Angel funding stage. However, as the study only consulted with mentoring suppliers, it is suggested that a further study of Life Science firms would be needed for an accurate assessment.


The report does not recommend, at this stage, the creation of an additional mentoring service or network due to a lack of evidence of demand. Further study with Life Sciences firms would be necessary to determine whether there is sufficient demand. However recommendations are made to address three areas of concern: the general approach to providing informal business advice support or more developed mentoring; the communication failures which prevent interaction; and finally, straightforward practical tools that would complement existing activities.

Author EKOS Limited
Published Year 2015
Report Type Research
  • Enterprise
    Sector-level support, Support to existing/growth businesses
  • Sectors
    Life Sciences