LONDON ¿ The technology management company Medical Marketing International Group plc (MMI) has agreed to a partnership with Scotland¿s development body, Scottish Enterprise, to set up and run a biotechnology incubator near Edinburgh.

The agreement is part of a major change in industrial strategy in which Scottish Enterprise will switch from the current focus on attracting inward investment in manufacturing, to supporting home-grown science-based companies, helping universities generate more value from their research, and supporting overseas companies that want to set up research bases in Scotland.

David Best, executive chairman of MMI, told BioWorld International, ¿Scotland has some excellent science and technology, but the universities can only take it so far in terms of growing world-class companies.¿

Scotland¿s spin-off rate is actually quite low relative to the quality of the science base and in comparison to other parts of the UK.

¿MMI¿s incubator model in Cambridge is working extremely well,¿ Best said. ¿We were asked: Could you do the same in Scotland?¿

MMI will set up an office at the Alba Technology Park, west of Edinburgh, and will work with the universities and National Health Service hospitals to identify technology suitable for commercialization, including biomedical applications of nanotechnology, a field in which Scotland has a strong research base. Some staff will be seconded from Scottish Enterprise to work with MMI and Best expects the office to be up and running in January.

¿Initially, we will be working in partnership, identifying and assessing technologies,¿ Best said. ¿There are existing premises at Alba where we can put companies but in the medium term there will be a purpose-built bioincubator.¿

MMI, which is listed on London¿s Alternative Investment Market, owns and operates the Bioscience Innovation Centre in Cambridge, one of the few privately owned biotech incubators in the UK.

¿We are not just looking to license promising technology, spend some time on development and then license it out ¿ we are a development machine,¿ Best said. MMI¿s approach is to set up shell companies and then source technologies to fit. The latest example is Natramed Ltd., formed within the past three months to develop botanicals.

Its most notable success to date is CellFactors plc, a cell therapy company MMI supported from 1997 to mid-2000, and in which it retains a shareholding.

Earlier this year MMI formed the BioStarter Initiative to capitalize on a change in the rules governing intellectual property owned by the National Health Service. The rule change aims to make it easier for hospitals to commercialize the #400 million (US$586 million) of research they carry out each year by allowing them to retain an equity stake in companies they spin out.

The BioStarter Initiative is offering to carry out audits of NHS research and provide the resources to commercialize suitable technology.

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