By: Claire Wilson. Last Updated: January 2024

Scotland’s Booming Pharmaceutical Industry

Photo: Global Manufacturing

Scotland’s Pharma Industry at a Glance

  • Over 5,600 people directly employed by Pharmaceutical Companies in Scotland
  • The industry exports over £575 million worth of manufactured goods
  • Salaries per head are around £11,000 higher than the Scottish average
  • Global companies including GlaxoSmithKline and Merck with facilities in Scotland

Now let’s take a closer look at the pharma industry in Scotland…

BTW, if you are interested in a career in pharmaceutical manufacturing, check out our University Certificate in Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Product Manufacturing

Pharma Employment in Scotland

A 2021 report from the Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI) at the University of Strathclyde showed outlined that the pharmaceutical industry directly employs 5,600 people (full-time equivalent) across Scotland.

Pharmaceutical employment in Scotland has also grown consistently faster than in the UK as a whole.

Scotland’s Booming Pharmaceutical Industry Chart 1

What’s more, the FAI estimate that for every 10 jobs in the wider pharmaceutical industry a further 17 are supported in the wider economy.

Importantly, these are well-paid jobs.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) reporting on the analysis outlines that the pharmaceutical industry is providing high-value jobs with salaries significantly above the national average.

“The average annual salary for someone working in Scotland’s pharmaceutical industry is £35,600, significantly higher than Scotland’s annual median income of £24,486.”

The FAI report also highlights that these jobs are found all across Scotland, including in smaller towns and rural communities, highlighting that in Highland and North Ayrshire, the pharmaceutical industry directly employs upwards of 800 people.

What Pharma Contributes to Scotland’s Economy

The Scottish Government has identified Life Sciences as one of six Growth Sectors. These are sectors where the Government believes the country has a “distinct comparative advantage”.

In 2021, the Scottish Government reported that the Gross Value Added (GVA) of the Life Sciences sector was £1.57 billion – an increase of 3.7% on the previous year.

Total exports from the Life Sciences growth sector stood at £1.8 billion in 2019, accounting for 2.1% of Scotland’s total exports – an increase of 16.5% over the previous year.

The 2021 FAI report summarised that:

  • pharmaceutical industry exports contributed £575 million to the Scottish economy
  • the sector supported £2.5 billion worth of industrial output
  • overall, the sector has a GVA worth £1.8 billion

The report also highlights that GVA in Scotland’s pharmaceutical industry has experienced significant growth, narrowing the gap between itself and the UK’s pharmaceutical industry. Scotland’s pharmaceutical industry’s GVA has almost doubled since 2009.

Scotland’s Booming Pharmaceutical Industry Chart 2

(Image: FAI 2021 report)

Commenting on the report, Alison Culpan, Director of ABPI Scotland said:

“Scotland’s industry is stronger today than it was three years ago with more people employed in good jobs, more being spent on research and development, and exports topping half a billion pounds.”

Why Pharma Picks Scotland

Check out this video below to see Dave Tudor from GSK outline why they continue to choose Scotland for manufacturing…

Scottish Development International describes Scotland as “a thriving biocluster, providing the ideal environment for innovation and company growth”

They outline…

…a “talented workforce” in medical technologies

…a “history of drug discovery excellence” in pharma services

“world-class MHRA-accredited GMP ATMP manufacturing facilities” in regenerative medicine.

And Scotland continues to work hard to create an environment where the Life Sciences sector can flourish.

This includes the development of Life Sciences Scotland – a group formed by representatives from both Government and Industry. They aim to “develop, drive and deliver the Life Sciences strategy in Scotland. By developing an environment where ingenuity and innovation can create jobs and wealth for Scotland”

In the Life Sciences Strategy for Scotland 2025 Vision, Life Science Scotland outline the specific mission as:

“To increase the Life Sciences industry contribution to the Scottish economy to £8bn by 2025. This will be achieved through the creation of a dynamic and competitive environment with a robust business base capable of attracting key skills, talent and investment.”

Here are the factors that Life Science Scotland identifies as Scotland’s Advantages…

image of eight coloured boxes each containing one of Scotland's key advantages to the pharmaceutical industry

You can check out this link for more information about each of the points above.

What Pharma Does in Scotland

The pharmaceutical industry has a strong history of R&D in Scotland. In fact, it’s the second-highest industry in the manufacturing sector, spending almost £165 million on R&D.

Scotland’s Booming Pharmaceutical Industry Chart 13

(Image: 2021 FAI report)

And R&D does continue to be a strong focus…

In June 2018, a £56 million investment was announced to create the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (MMIC) in Renfrewshire. The centre is expected to employ 80 people by 2023 and lead to £80 million in R&D investment by 2028.

But the focus is now also expanding from traditional R&D activities. Life Science Scotland outlines current key subsectors as:

  • Digital healthcare
  • Animal bioscience, aquaculture & agritech
  • Regenerative medicine
  • Industrial biotechnology
  • Medical technologies
  • Pharmaceutical Services

So let’s now take a closer look at the pharmaceutical and medical technology manufacturing that’s happening in Scotland…

Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Companies in Scotland

Charles River (Tranent)

Provides research services for all stages of drug development. With over 750 employees they are one of the largest private-sector employers in East Lothian.

Merck (Irvine & Glasgow)

Merck’s facility at Irvine manufactures liquid media, buffers, and reagents used in the biopharmaceutical industry. They currently employ over 170 people with that number growing at a rate of 20% per annum since 2017.

Their Glasgow facility provides clinical manufacturing of intermediates and final products used in viral vaccines and gene therapy products and in 2018 the company announced the investment of £1 million in the facility.

GSK (Montrose & Irvine)

GSK Montrose is one of only two sites globally producing ingredients for all of the firm’s Ellipta inhalers and currently employs around 600 people following a £54 million investment in the facility in 2018.

GSK’s site at Irvine in Ayrshire is an antibiotics manufacturing facility that has also received continual investment – over £70 million since 2013.

Lonza (Livingston)

Employing over 100 people, Lonza’s Capsugel facility is the largest dedicated pharmaceutical liquid and semisolid production in the world, providing product development and manufacture for oral drug delivery.

AMRI (Glasgow)

With a 30,000 sq foot facility, AMRI manufactures sterile injectable drug products and clinical-stage medicines.

LifeScan (Inverness)

Employing over 1,100 people, LifeScan was sold by Johnson & Johnson in 2018 for £1.57 billion to private equity firm Platinum Equity. LifeScan designs and manufacture glucose test strips, and designs electronic meters for the global diabetes market. The company is Inverness’s largest private-sector employer.

Check out all the latest job vacancies in Scotland on our UK Pharmaceutical & Medical Device Jobs Board!

Interested in a Pharma Career in Scotland?

No experience?
You’ll need to start with our University Certificate in Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Product Manufacturing

Experience in laboratory science, biochemistry, molecular biology or microbiology?
Take our Conversion Course into Quality Roles in Pharma

Experience in pharmacy, pharmacy technician, quality assurance or quality control?
Take our Conversion Course into Quality Roles in Pharma

Pharma experience and looking to move into more specialist roles?
Our Equipment Validation Training Course for Starter Validation Course could be what you’re looking for!

About the Author

Image with Claire Wilison from GetReskilled Team

Claire Wilson

Content Marketing and Career Coaching

Claire runs GetReskilled’s Advanced Career Coaching Programme – our specially devised job hunting course that helps our trainees take that final step into employment by leading them through the job hunting process. She is extremely enthusiastic about helping people reach their final goal of employment in their new career path.

Claire has a BSc (Hons) in Medical Biology from Edinburgh University and spent 7 years working in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.