John Mackenzie

John Mackenzie

Injecting science into farming

The Roslin Innovation Centre in Midlothian is at the heart of Scotland’s life sciences industry and has a special focus on animal health, as chief executive John Mackenzie explains.

Farming has been at the heart of the Borders’ economy for generations. Yet it’s not just the rearing of animals that takes place in Scotland’s southern frontier – it’s also home to cutting-edge scientific research to ensure the health of our nation’s livestock.
Midlothian has the largest concentration of animal science-related expertise in Europe, with the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush campus housing the world-famous Roslin Institute, the birthplace of Dolly the Sheep, and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, along with hospitals for animals of all shapes and sizes.

The new kid on the block at Easter Bush is the Roslin Innovation Centre, a three-storey gateway building that includes 41,000sq ft of flexible laboratory and office space that companies can rent on a 12-month “easy in, easy out” or longer-term basis, along with facilities shared with other users on the campus, including a gym, a shop and a science outreach centre for visiting schools and other public engagement events.

“We’re close to the Borders railway, which offers fantastic links,” explains John Mackenzie, chief executive of the Roslin Innovation Centre. “Together with the airport and the bus service, businesses can come here knowing full-well that they have good transport links and good access to local talent for staffing and recruitment processes.

“Easter Bush is a great area to do science and work with businesses. We’re at the heart of newly-renamed Midlothian Science Zone, together with our partners at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), the Moredun Research Institute, Pentlands Science Park, Edinburgh Technopole and the Scottish Enterprise Biocampus.”

Roslin hit the headlines in 1997 when the birth the previous year of Dolly the Sheep was announced. Dolly was the first mammal to be cloned from a cell taken from an adult animal and her carcass is now on display at the National Museum of Scotland. Although Roslin can trace its roots back to 1919, it was Dolly that put the institute on the global map and cemented its reputation as a key centre for animal health.

“We offer fantastic infrastructure and a great innovation environment for companies to locate here and engage with science,” adds Mackenzie. “We’re midway through a 2025 masterplan for the Easter Bush Campus and already more than £140m has been invested in the campus out of about £250m ear-marked for the project.

“We’re looking to attract between six and 30 tenants over the next couple of years. Those companies will ideally be strategically collaborating with the Roslin Institute and others on campus.

“The introduction of Borders Railway has certainly enhanced how we do business here. The railway takes people from the south and the north so they can easily access our infrastructure and the seed investment that’s going on here.

“I think the railway is bringing about even greater traction and engagement between business and academia. It’s helping to enhance our enterprise culture and access our life sciences ecosystem.”

To find out more about business opportunities along the Borders Railway corridor please contact Andrew Ralton on 0131 2713435 or email andrew.ralton@midlothian.gov.uk