Collaboration is the foundation needed to develop Scotland’s future Life Sciences skill set

Last year, Scotland’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) identified both the bioeconomy and life sciences as sectors of major opportunity.

Speaking on 29 November, at The Scotsman’s Life Science conference, Dr Claire Garden* officially launched the report from the recent Life and Chemical Sciences Skills Summit.

“This sector is so effective in driving economic growth, and so important for the future prosperity of our country,” Dr Garden told the audience.

The sector can also play a major role in achieving the Scottish Government’s ambitions for fair and green economic growth.

“The Life and Chemical Sciences sector employs about 1.1% of the Scottish workforce but contributes 4.4% of Scotland’s total economy (GVA),” added Dr Garden.The sector is also on track to increase its contribution to the Scottish economy to a total of £8bn by 2025, and Scotland’s Life Sciences sector is world-leading, partly because of its highly skilled and internationally recognised workforce.”

But what skills will be needed in future?

The first Life and Chemical Sciences Skills Summit was successfully led and hosted by Dr Garden in September 2023, with support from SULSA (Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance) and Skills Development Scotland.

“We brought together 80 representatives from industry, tertiary education, skills providers, and other key stakeholders, to collectively address two priority areas: the work-readiness of new entrants, and collaborative working between industry and tertiary education.”

Themes of consolidation, collaboration and challenge emerged, and discussions identified 15 recommendations that could all be grouped under two clear needs:

  • A centralised umbrella skills organisation for Life Sciences.
  • A sector skills platform for Scotland – comprising both physical and digital spaces to bring together and signpost all skills assets.

“Together, the organisation and platform would facilitate the kind of collaborative, creative work that we know will be required to meet the challenges set out by The Entrepreneurial Campus, Green Skills, and Digital and Data challenges set by government.”

The sector’s vision

There are two key strategies that set the vision for the sector’s future. First, the Life Sciences Strategy for Scotland 2025, which aims to make Scotland the location of choice for Life Sciences businesses, researchers, healthcare professionals and investors, while increasing Life Sciences contribution to Scotland’s economic growth.

The second is The National Plan for Industrial Biotechnology. It states that Scotland will become the go-to destination to incubate and grow bioeconomy businesses to scale; and to manufacture products and services desired by consumers and end-users that will facilitate the nation’s net zero 2045 ambition.

At the centre of both are the people and skills working in the sector.

“We know we need a skilled workforce, but the question of ‘which skills’ can be challenging,” said Dr Garden. “Businesses are telling us that the sector increasingly needs people to have multidisciplinary skills that combine scientific and non-scientific skill sets, such as: meta skills; digital and data; automation, AI and robotics; quality control and regulatory; green skills; commercial skills; and entrepreneurship.”

“At Edinburgh Napier, we are focussing now on consolidating our entrepreneurial offer to students, business, and our community: for example, through a Women’s Enterprise Hub; collaboration with businesses to incorporate more innovation challenge-based opportunities for our students; and an educator’s toolkit.

“We were delighted when the University was recently placed second in Scotland in the Entrepreneurial Impact Ranking, presented in the ‘Gateways to Growth Report’ by Octopus Ventures.

Closing with a call to action to all stakeholders across the sector, Dr Garden said: “It’s time now to consolidate and openly share our skills assets, and we must find smarter and more creative ways to continue to collaborate if we are to meet the challenges we face.”

* Dr Claire Garden is Associate Professor of Life Science Education and Head of Learning and Teaching in the School of Applied Sciences at Edinburgh Napier University.


report from the recent Life and Chemical Sciences Skills Summit

digital-economy-skills-action-plan.pdf (

green-jobs-in-scotland-report_final-4.pdf (


E-bike boom: ENU researchers find electric mountain bikes could help tackle health inequalities

The biggest study of its kind also found cost remains a barrier to e-MTBs, writes Dr Lesley Ingram-Sills

New research into the use of electric mountain bikes (e-MTBs), led by researchers at Edinburgh Napier University’s Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland, has found they could have a role to play in reducing health inequalities – as well as offering a ‘unique opportunity’ to promote wellbeing.

The study, which was the largest undertaken into the recreational use of the e-MTBs, gathered more than 1300 responses were gathered from riders, retailers, manufacturers and land managers across Scotland, England and Wales.

It found evidence of an older participation base than general MTB cyclists, as well as a broadly similar number of disabled respondents to the British average, suggesting they could help more people stay fit and active.

Other conclusions included an increase in speed and distance covered throughout the year in comparison to other cyclists, this the majority of individuals participating to benefit mental health or have fun. Cost is the main barrier to participation and this is an important consideration moving forward to make it fully accessible as a sport.

The final report also makes nine recommendations to organisations involved in the sector, including education relating to trail etiquette and outdoor access codes, reducing the financial barriers and promoting its health benefits.

Within this research we attempted to understand the rider, the industry, and the most popular trails to ride e-MTBs on.  We continue to see a growth in this sector of the cycling industry and its great to see new users entering the sport for the first time. e-bikes really can smash down barriers making cycling accessible for all regardless of fitness, gender, disability or age. It’s great to see more individuals accessing green spaces to have fun and improve their mental health – we all need a bit of that after the last few years. The Stakeholders are trail blazers here, using this information to help with trail developments, infrastructure, and rider education to support e-MTBers just as the sport is gaining momentum.

This study was funded and supported British Cycling, Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland, Forestry England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Cycling, NatureScot and Forestry and Land Scotland. It also suggests targeting under-represented groups to make cycling more diverse, promoting a positive image of e-bike use, and conducting more research on their environmental impact in future.

Since being introduced into the cycling industry, sales of e-bikes have grown exponentially over the last five years. They are expected to surpass 130 million in 2023 with some estimates predicting as much as an eight-fold increase by 2030.