Getting access to the right financial support, attracting skilled employees and increasing customers and sales are the biggest challenges facing Scotland’s life sciences companies over the next five years, according to research published today.

The first survey of its kind by industry leadership group Life Sciences Scotland (LSS) also warned that the sector is worried about the uncertainty of Brexit.

The LSS industry leadership group is a collaboration between industry, enterprise agencies and government strategy teams that aims to develop, drive and deliver the sector’s strategy.

It said this is a crucial time for the industry in Scotland as it works towards its target of almost doubling its turnover to £8 billion by 2025, from just over £4bn.

The turnover target is part of the ‘Life Sciences for Scotland – 2025 Vision’ published last year. It said that the sector employs around 37,000 people and its GVA is about £2bn.

The new LSS survey highlighted access to funding as an area where businesses needed more support and guidance, particularly when it comes to securing higher levels of investment.

The research revealed that achieving scale and being ambitious are top priorities for organisations in Scotland’s growing life sciences sector.

Scaling up current sales revenue beyond existing rates of growth was the most common priority, with nearly a quarter of respondents saying that was their main focus.

Collaborating with partners to take business models to the next level and commercialising existing intellectual assets were among other key priorities mentioned.

This was closely followed by the need to increase research and development and the ability to attract and retain a skilled workforce. More than 40% of respondents said that as their organisation grows they will need additional staff to develop existing and future products or services.

Respondents to the survey praised the networking environment and connections in Scotland. Some 45% of participants said networking was extremely beneficial to their organisation, together with the funding and support received from Scottish Enterprise and innovation centres such as Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre and Stratified Medicine Scotland.

Collaborating with the NHS in Scotland, having access to world leading research and the skilled and dynamic workforce of Scottish academia were also cited as attractions of working in Scotland.

LSS said the majority of the 81 participants came from pharmaceutical services, industrial biotechnology and medical technologies with an annual turnover of between £1million and £5m.

A spokesperson for the LSS industry leadership group said: “It is extremely beneficial to hear from the community and reflect on the positives of the industry as well as the concerns.

We all realise this is a crucial time for the industry as we work towards our target of achieving a turnover of £8bn by 2025.

“Life sciences in Scotland has a strong heritage and the sector has been the source of many outstanding medical breakthroughs and discoveries."

The spokesperson added that LSS wants companies to continue to thrive and have the correct support and guidance to grow. They said this can only be achieved by keeping the industry connected and listening to the priorities of companies up and down the country.

More than £300m has been invested in the sector in Scotland by companies including Quotient, GSK and Capsugel, according to LSS.