School of Social and Political Science

MSc Management of Bioeconomy, Innovation and Governance

Find out more


Applications for September 2022 entry have now closed.  Applications for the next intake usually open in October.

A message from the Programme Director

Welcome to the web page for the Masters in Management of Bioeconomy, Innovation and Governance (MSc BIG), an innovative and dynamic postgraduate qualification.  Focusing on innovation in life sciences and biotechnology, and designed to meet the increasing demand for skilled people in the growing global bioeconomyMSc BIG responds to a number of key challenges:

  • Developing sustainable innovation in a responsible manner
  • Identifying and exploiting value throughout innovation ecosystems
  • Bringing new technologies to existing and emerging markets

MSc BIG enables its graduates to take an active role in the workforce, contributing to development of the bioeconomy in industry, policy, regulatory, not-for-profit or academic capacities. Students learn how to respond to globally important challenges by contributing to innovative developments in, for example, healthcare, agriculture and other land uses, energy, industrial biotechnology, and environmental remediation, in developed and developing economies. They are taught how to use customized methods to deal with complex issues ranging from foresight and innovation systems analysis, strategic decision making in companies, value chain analysis and business model development, product and process regulation, to ensuring ‘responsibility’ in research and innovation. Students also have the opportunity to write their dissertations on collaborations through work-based placements with organizations or companies involved in the bioeconomy.

Specific areas covered by the programme include:

  • agricultural biotechnology
  • sustainable food and animal production
  • synthetic biology
  • pharmaceuticals and antimicrobial resistance
  • regenerative medicine and cell therapies
  • stratified medicine
  • industrial biotechnology
  • genetic databases
  • biofuels and energy-related developments

Students benefit from the programme's unique position within the University. MSc BIG benefits from its strong association with the  Innogen Institute - a research institute renowned for its interdiciplinary study of the life sciences, proximity to world-leading science and medicine, government, and key policymakers; and long-standing collaborations with commercial and not-for-profit sectors within the bioeconomy.

The programme is delivered by the Science, Technology and Innovation Studies (STIS) subject group within the University of Edinburgh's School of Social and Political Science, allowing students to take full advantage of the vibrant community at one of Europe's leading centres for social science research.

On behalf of the MSc BIG programme team, we look forward to hearing from you.


MSc BIG Programme is organised into 10 and 20 credit courses. Students will take 80 credits of core courses, plus 40 credits of optional courses. They will also be required to write a 15,000 word dissertation which is worth 60 credits.

Core Courses

Introduction to Risk, Regulation and Governance (10 credits)

This course introduces students to the key concepts of risk, regulation and governance as they apply to a range of industries, technological sectors, and socio-economic issues. The course also equips students with the knowledge and skill to begin characterising and critiquing different formal models of risk governance and manage emerging and complex risks.

Regulation and Governance of the Life Sciences (10 credits)

This course provides in-depth knowledge and understanding, through rich case studies, of how regulation and risk-governance processes have impacted on life science-based innovations; particularly in health and agricultural sectors. It explores how regulation and governance has been adpated for advanced therapies and agricultural technologies; how public stakeholders and users of technology help shape innovation and governance; and the important role of intellectual property.

Analysis and Shaping of the Bioeconomy (10 credits)

This course provides an introduction to the origins of the bioeconomy, its conceptual foundations, and the new science and technology that is driving it. Topics include definitions of the bioeconomy, the evolution of the life science industries, the economic impacts on countries and regions, and the role of public stakeholders. The course draws on Innogens unique approach to the study of life sciences from a systemic perspective; drawing on the concept of an innovation ecosystem (which comprises multiple business models, value chains and external enablers and constraints).

Innovation Systems: Theory and Practice (10 credits)

This course provides an introduction to the theory of innovation ecosystems, using a range of case examples from the bioeconomy, and explores how they are evolving from a systemic perspective. The course also provides students with the necessary knowledge, skills and undersanding to critque and apply methods of foresight and scenario analysis.

Innovation in Sustainable Food Systems (20 credits)

Ensuring food supplies in a sustainable and equitable manner in the face of climate change driven events is one of the key challenges facing societies in the 21st Century. While often posed as a production led innovation challenge, at least as important are the societal contexts, including changing patterns of consumption.  This course considers sustainable food systems and food security from a wide range of perspectives, examining farming as a social practice, as commercial food production, as a contribution and challenge to environmental policy and as an integral part of sustainable and healthy consumption. Innovation is examined in both its scientific and social aspects.

Biobusiness (20 credits)

This course provides students with a comprehensive overview of and the ability to assess how innovation in the life sciences is changing production methods, industrial structures, market dynamics and strategic decision making.  

Through the course we investigate, through recent and relevant case studies and examples,  the systemic character of discoveries in the life sciences, developments in medical and information technology, advances in areas such as agro-bio, bio-fuels and bio-materials, and how these changes are reshaping the bioeconomy in critical fields such as healthcare, agriculture and ‘green economy’. Emphasis is placed on the analysis of specific contemporary matters such as structural change in pharmaceutical drug R&D, the emergence of new methods of knowledge and technology translation in the medical arena, and the variety of ways in which risk capital supports bio-related innovation.

Extra Curricular

The MSc program offers students various opportunities to visit and undertake work with industry partners through field trips and the work based dissertation.

Students who aim to leave the masters degree with practical entrepreneurial skills are encouraged to apply for the Edinburgh Enterprise Award Scheme. This scheme which is highly complementary and runs parallel to the MSc BIG programme, helps students to identify relevant skills and foster reflective practice. It is run by the Edinburgh Careers Service and Launch.ed.

Career opportunities

Basic scientific knowledge is no longer sufficient for building a successful career in the growing bioeconomy. There is a high demand for trained professionals in this area, and this degree is an opportunity to impress prospective employers in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors with expertise in life science innovation.

You may also choose to continue your studies and pursue an academic career in this rapidly growing field.

The transferable skills you gain in areas such as communication and research will give you an edge in the employment market, whatever your eventual career.

    How to apply

    Tuition fees

    Award Title Duration Study mode  
    MSc   1 Year Full-time Tuition fees
    MSc   2 Years Part-time Tuition fees
    Additional information

    Innogen Institute

    This course is affiliated with the Innogen Institute - it's renowned for world-leading research with global impact on the social and economic aspects of the life sciences and emerging technologies.

    Innogen focuses on innovation arising from life science research and technological development, how research and technologies are regulated and governed, and how technological and social innovation interact.

    Innogen is engaged in projects with over 40 institutions across 30 countries, and its research has influenced decision makers in industry, government and public bodies in the UK, EU and internationally.

    Innogen Institute website


    Undergraduate contact

    The School of Social and Political Science sits within the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.  All enquiries and applications relating to undergraduate admissions to the School are handled by our College. Please contact:

    CAHSS Undergraduate Admissions
    University of Edinburgh
    57 George Square
    Edinburgh, EH8 9JX

    Tel: +44 (0)131 650 3565