An innovation system with global impact

Tuesday 7th June 2022, 3:18pm

An economic impact report by BiGGAR Economics has outlined the contribution the Roslin Institute makes to the local, national and international economies and highlights the role of Roslin Innovation Centre in business support impact and the benefits of co-locating research and commercialisation. 

Easter Bush Campus, Roslin Institute and Roslin Innovation Centre - credit Midlothian Science Zone

The Roslin Institute is a world-leading centre for animal science research and has been creating a more sustainable world through fundamental research in animal genetics and health since its formation in 1993.

In 2017, the Roslin Innovation Centre opened to provide space for companies undertaking strategic, commercial and collaborative research in animal and veterinary sciences.

The Roslin Institute is an innovation system in its own right, creating impact because of the way knowledge, technology, and information flow among people, enterprises, and external institutions. It is built on the foundations of world leading research and without this fundamental research there simply would be no economic impact. 

Research carried out at the Roslin Institute contributes almost £20 billion annually to the global economy, largely through productivity improvements in agriculture and aquaculture, according to an economic analysis. This figure includes a contribution of almost £325 million to the UK economy, more than £80 million to Scotland and almost £50 million to the local economy, according to the report from BiGGAR Economics, and finds that Roslin’s work supports more than 1,600 jobs worldwide, including 1,325 in the UK and more than 1000 in Scotland.

The report states that the Institute is a highly impactful organisation, successfully delivering its aim to enhance the lives of animals and humans through high quality research in animal biology. BiGGAR Economic’s report considers long-term productivity gains from its research together with economic benefits associated with Roslin’s operational activities and impact from its business support. Research impact is enabled through commercialisation of the Institute’s fundamental discoveries via strategic relationships with global genetics and animal health companies.

Roslin Innovation Centre serves as a centre for companies undertaking strategic, commercial and collaborative research in the animal and veterinary sciences, agri-tech and health industries. It became profitable within its first three years of opening and is currently operating at around 85% capacity. In 2019/20 there were 25 companies (excluding spin-out companies) located at the Roslin Innovation Centre, employing 137 staff. 

In addition, a 'research hotel' offers an interim solution for established companies and start-ups alike, providing ready to use state-of-the art office and lab space. This is an ideal facility to develop early-stage innovations, overcoming the barriers to commercialisation inherent in committing to an untested idea. 

With Roslin Innovation Centre co-located on Easter Bush Campus, this means academic researchers, commercialisation staff and people working in commercial businesses are able to make informal relationships and have opportunities to meet, chat and collaborate.

Research undertaken at the Roslin Institute supports technological innovation through the commercialisation of research outputs and knowledge exchange with businesses. This includes the Institute's licensing agreements, the way it engages with businesses through consultancy and contract research, new companies it creates and the Roslin Innovation Centre which supports businesses by providing space for them to locate and opportunities for collaboration. 

Roslin Innovation Centre is an important base for businesses because of its links with the Institute’s world leading researchers and, in turn, with their commercial partners, which include globally significant genetics companies. There is a great deal of opportunity for cross-fertilisation of ideas, collaborations, and new initiatives as part of the Institute’s own innovation system. Together with its excellent geographical location and state of the art facilities, this results in tenants inclined to remain over the longer term, rather than ‘graduating’ into larger facilities elsewhere. 

Ingenza Ltd is one such example. The innovative biotechnology company was founded in 2002, with expertise in the creation of high-value, innovative products and technologies for global industry. 

Originally a spin-out company from the University of Edinburgh, the company has been based at the Roslin Institute for over 10 years. In 2018, Ingenza relocated from Roslin BioCentre to the new Roslin Innovation Centre where it currently occupies 11,000 sq ft of lab and office space on the top floor of the building. This move allowed the company to grow, doubling its footprint.

A world leader in industrial biotechnology and synthetic biology, Ingenza has a team of scientists across various specialities, including chemistry, molecular genetics and biochemistry. Innovative products are licensed to industrial clients.

Being in close proximity to the Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies allows opportunities for relationships and collaboration with academic researchers. For example, Ingenza has collaborated to mine data on the rumen microbiome and metagenome for enzymes of industrial value. 

The company has also been actively involved in the development and manufacture of a cost-effective COVID-19 vaccine in collaboration with Oxford University and UK CPI, part of the UK Government’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult. As part of its work, the company tested a potential vaccine on mice which proved effective and this work is also intended to provide a future basis for vaccine development.

In addition to the vital research and development the company undertakes, it also has a significant role in education and inspiring the next generation of biotechnological scientists. Ingenza offers modern apprenticeships, part-time degree studies and sponsorship of PhDs for graduate employees and this activity earned the company being recognised as an ‘Edinburgh Life Sciences Top Youth Employer'.

The importance of co-locating researchers and commercial bio scientists in an innovation system like this cannot be overstated. 

The planned Easter Bush Agri-Tech Hub, which will bring together world-leading researchers from the Roslin Institute, the University of Edinburgh and other Higher Education institutions, public and third sector organisations, is expected to deliver incremental gains in its first 15 years. 

With this in mind, Roslin’s projected impact by 2024/25 is expected to include a business support impact of £33.7m, supporting 358 jobs, which will grow to £43.2m and support 494 jobs by 2029/2030.

Roslin’s operational impacts are forecast to reach £49.2m, supporting 1,038 jobs, by 2024/25, to increase to £54.9m and 1,115 jobs by 2029/30.

The Agri-Tech Hub will help enable data-driven advances in the delivery of agriculture and aquaculture improvements and create innovative commercial solutions. Data driven advances have the potential to improve the efficiency of food production, accelerate the path to zero carbon and reduced emissions, and ensure product quality, animal health and welfare.