It has never been more important for nations to set out a clear roadmap for how they will maximise the economic benefits from their universities and industries, ensuring our brightest ideas and best, most influential talent are supported to achieve global recognition and excellence.
It has never been more important for nations to set out a clear roadmap for how they will maximise the economic benefits from their universities and industries, ensuring our brightest ideas and best, most influential talent are supported to achieve global recognition and excellence. Growing Value Scotland, a Task Force bringing together business leaders, university principals, and senior policy makers, joined forces to highlight key innovation challenges for the Scottish economy and to make recommendations to support Scotland’s ambition to drive up the innovation league tables.
An important benchmark was the Task Force’s First Report, published in October 2015, which reported that Scotland spends just 1.6 % of its GDP on R&D. This falls way short of the leading European nations (e.g. Finland and Sweden at 3.5% and 3.4% respectively). The report also found that innovation and cooperation between businesses and universities in Scotland is lower than the rest of the UK. By contrast, it highlighted the impressive strength of Scotland’s higher education sector. Our second report, published in March 2016, provided insights into Scotland’s innovation culture and practices gleaned from interviews with over 150 leading figures from across Scotland’sbusiness and university communities and policy organisations.
On Wednesday 25th May we launched our final flagship report ‘The Step Change: Business-University Collaboration powering Scottish Innovation’ in which we call for an urgent step change in the business uptake of innovation and provide a roadmap of nine conclusions and recommendations on how this can be turned into a reality.
We were delighted by the support for our final report by Mr John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, who commented “I would like to thank the National Centre for Universities and Business and specifically the Growing Value Scotland Task Force for their valuable contribution to the debate on innovation reform in Scotland. “I welcome the recommendations from their report which complement the Scottish Government’s plans on innovation reform, by simplifying the Scottish innovation ecosystem and maximising collaboration between higher education institutions and business.”
As part of the roadmap, which is grounded by the two central principles of focus and scale, we recommend a new innovation funding system to ensure we leverage the research strengths of Scotland’s universities for a sustainable economic return. This system would work alongside increases in innovation capacity of businesses in Scotland, and greater visibility for research and consultancy undertaken by universities, and for policy, funding and practice to support innovation; policy that would be specific to the different sectors that drive Scotland’s economy.
We also recommend that:
- Businesses need access to risk capital, and government should use its devolved fiscal powers to support such access.
- Scotland’s small firms need guidance from business schools, enterprise agencies and Innovate UK on how to grow and scale up.
- Universities must help to refresh the pool of enterprising and business-literate graduate talent by better collaboration and sharper focus on enterprise education.
- Graduates in the humanities and social sciences also have much to contribute across the innovation spectrum. There needs to be better articulation of the business need for such graduates.
This is more than just emotive political rhetoric. It is a call to deliver on the things we do best, for future generations to have some chance of enjoying a way of life that is not so dependent on other nations’ financial services industry and that enables the retention of talent in Scotland for the benefit and prosperity of Scotland. There are substantial challenges ahead, but we are excited by these findings and the resulting recommendations that highlight the route for Scotland to re-secure its foothold as a world-leading innovative nation.
By Rob Woodward, CEO STV Group plc and Co-Chair of the Task Force
Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen and Co-Chair of the GVS Task Force