Revived £6 million Moray Life Science project wins approval

THE Moray economy has been given a seasonal shot in the arm with the news that a £6 million life science centre has been handed the go-ahead.

Funding is now in place to create the Moray Life Science Centre, which could open in 2013.

It will focus on research, education and continuing professional development in health and care, to support the work of NHS Grampian, Moray College, and Moray Community Health and Social Care Partnership.

The innovative project had looked to be dead in the water earlier this year when NHS Grampian’s funding crisis prompted health chiefs to withdraw its share of funding. However, NHS Grampian has now come up with £1 million which has put the Elgin-based facility firmly back on track.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has awarded £1.5 million to the project, with £1.1 million from Moray College and £2.4 million from the European Regional Development Fund.

The state of the art three-storey centre will be located on the Moray College campus in Elgin and will include a lecture theatre, library, research, study and training facilities, with commercial space for related companies.

Plans are still to be finalised on the activities which will occupy the building, but it will support innovation in digital health and may also feature a virtual hospital ward.

Along with facilities for health and care professionals to develop their skills in excellent surroundings, there will be opportunities for members of the public to learn how to take a greater role in their own health management, particularly if they have long-term conditions, through patient education and workshops.

There will also be space in the building for three commercial partners, and tentative talks have already taken place with interested parties.

It is not clear at this stage how many jobs might be created by the development, which should be completed by the end of 2012.

The centre will provide much needed space for training, including locally delivered continuing professional development, said Andrew Fowlie, general manager of Moray Community Health and Social Care Partnership.

“There will be a significant emphasis on public participation and co-creation of health and care services. The building will be designed to support learning around the themes of self-care and long-term conditions,” he said.

“Relevant life science initiatives will be pursued between academics, clinicians and industry. Presently, these include digital health, long-term conditions management and women’s health.”

A clinical skills area will be provided to NHS Education for Scotland specifications. It is expected that by providing first-class facilities, Moray will be better able to attract and retain professionals keen to live and work in this part of the country while still being able to continually enhance their skills, without the need to travel great distances.

Moray is the first rural area in Scotland to develop the concept of a life science centre which local health chiefs believe is central to developing tomorrow’s health and social care solutions.

The Moray Life Science Centre was first planned in the Moray 2020 economic strategy, which was drawn up five years ago by partner agencies in response to the then anticipated impact of downsizing of the RAF workforce in the area, recognising the need for diversifying of the local economy.

Confirmation of the project has come at a time when the closure of RAF Kinloss and ongoing threat to RAF Lossiemouth has created huge uncertainty in the local economy.

The major step forward for the project has been welcomed by members of the Moray Health and Social Care Partnership. Chairman Charles Muir said: “This is a really important development and good news for Moray.”

Scott McKnockiter, of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “The regional life sciences sector consists of over 50 active organisations, supporting 1,800 jobs and is already worth £130 million to the Highlands and Islands economy.

“HIE has awarded funding to the Moray Lifescience Centre project as confirmation of our belief that this will provide significant benefits for the Moray community and beyond.

“It is intended that this will become a principle research, development and education facility in the area and, along with the Centre for Health Science in Inverness, show that the North of Scotland is a serious player in the global life sciences sector.”

The Moray centre will support the national drive to improve the health and wellbeing of the people of Scotland. With changing demographics, the greater focus is on prevention, the local delivery of care, efficient use of new technologies and encouraging individuals to be fully involved in improving their health and managing conditions.

The building will be procured and owned by Moray College.

Principal Mike Devenney said: “Moray College is delighted to have been leading on the development of the proposed centre since we were invited to host this on our main campus by the Moray Health and Social Care Partnership in 2008.

“The centre will also provide facilities that the college’s students and staff will benefit from given our significant involvement in learning, teaching and research relating to health and social care.”