Promoting innovation and developing entrepreneurial culture in Scotland

Promoting innovation and developing entrepreneurial culture in Scotland

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Report by SFC

Over the last few years there has been a positive shift in the way public sector organisations work in Scotland. This has resulted in the robust infrastructure that is needed to deliver the sorts of collaboration this ‘State of Relationship’ report is focusing on - that being collaboration over time, across sectors, and collaboration that is place based.

There are many factors that need to be considered if Scotland is to maintain and further develop a reputation as an innovative nation, one that is not reliant on constantly reminding ourselves of the proud tradition and past history of world-leading innovation, however impressive that may be. We need to look forward and further afield, not back and inwardly, if we are to reap the economic and societal benefits from our impressive capacity to innovate.

Since 2011, the Scottish Funding Council, working with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, has contributed to major national developments such as the extension of Interface and the Innovation Voucher Schemes, introduced Easy-Access IP, launched the Innovation Centres Programme and Innovation Scotland. But more remains to be done. In addition to the important flow of skilled individuals into industry from our colleges and universities, we have to find better mechanisms to support business and industry, and to ensure the effective and efficient translation of research into new products and processes that will ultimately generate a raft of wider societal benefits. 

The Scottish Funding Council was established by statute in 2005 as a non-departmental public body (NDPB) of the Scottish Government. The main statutory responsibilities of SFC are to secure coherent provision of high quality further and higher education, and the undertaking of research.  

In partnership with Scotland’s colleges and universities SFC is seeking to further develop a “research base that is internationally competitive and improving its reputation and standing in the world” and to “further university-industry collaboration and the exploitation of research.”

PlaScottish-Funding-Councilcing these in the context of the current Scottish Government’s Economic Strategy (GES1), the Scottish Government is clear - further and higher education have an essential role to play in its plans for economic recovery and growth, particularly by improving the level of skills within the economy and by delivering more, and more effective, knowledge–driven innovation. In One Scotland – The Government’s Programme for Scotland 2014-15² (PfG) the Scottish Government has affirmed that policy delivery and legislation for the coming year will be focused on the ‘Purpose’ first set out in 2007 – “To focus Government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.”

The aim is for Scotland to be an innovative, fair, high wage, and high productivity economy, one that competes in international markets and focuses on high value goods and services.

The Scottish Government recognises that this will require a well-qualified and highly-skilled workforce, and job opportunities that can exploit these higherlevel skills to deliver the levels of productivity that are the principle long-term driver of economic growth. All public bodies are expected to contribute to the delivery of the PfG and GES. Universities and businesses have a big part to play. SFC will be working together with them to ensure that researchers in Scotland are enabled to make an increased contribution to sustainable economic growth and that our businesses can be more innovation active to lead and absorb the collaborative solutions to industry challenges. There will be challenges that must be overcome to secure the greatest rewards for Scotland.

The PfG identifies innovation as one of the fundamental drivers of sustainable economic growth and refers to its plans to support a range of innovation and entrepreneurial activities, first set out in November 2013 in Scotland CAN DO: Becoming a World-leading Entrepreneurial and Innovative Nation³ and in the Scotland CAN DO: Action Framework⁴ of April 2014.

The aim of Scotland CAN DO is to build on long-term Scottish Government investment and exploit the strengths of research and development in Scottish HEIs to promote innovation and help encourage the development of a wider entrepreneurial culture that will foster the creation of more businesses, new products, and new services from existing businesses. 

The ambition is to:

• Secure increased entrepreneurship and innovation activity from individuals and businesses in Scotland resulting in more businesses being formed, and new products and services from existing businesses.
• Help more people from all walks of life with the ambition and skills to create, lead and grow successful businesses.
• Further develop the education system with entrepreneurship and innovation at its core, seizing the opportunities presented by Curriculum for Excellence, college reform, and the worldleading strength of our universities.
• See more of our knowledge and intellectual capital being commercialised with greatly increased collaboration between business and the academic sector.
• Have a greater focus on, and share of, global markets as our business leaders grow in confidence and expand their horizons internationally.

The convergence of the PfG, GES, and Scotland CAN DO is clear.

The Scottish Government will establish the Scottish Business Development Bank, it will continue to support innovation through amongst other things:

• Stimulating collaboration among the Scottish Innovation Centres and other stakeholders, incentivising them to work together on industrial and societal challenges through a £1 million Innovation Challenge Fund.
• Developing the work of the Innovation Scotland Forum by establishing a new Ministerial-led Innovation Forum, that will bring together private, public and third sectors and have a pivotal role in integrating Scotland’s innovation system.
• Boosting the business innovation journey for Scottish companies and enabling many more businesses to use innovation to accelerate their growth, making innovation and internationalisation central to Scotland’s business base.
• Working with the private and third sectors, our economic agencies, and local government, through Business Gateway, to support a greater culture of innovation and commercialisation amongst Scottish companies.

Delivering on the Scottish Government ‘Purpose’ and securing sustainable economic growth remains the top ambition and it is one Scotland intends to deliver through extensive public sector alignment and collaboration. The most significant development over the last three years, in terms of public sector collaboration, is the extent to which SFC, Scottish Enterprise (SE) and Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE), and the Scottish Government have worked together with the HE sector to deliver Innovation Scotland, Interface, Innovation vouchers, Horizon 2020 engagement, Fraunhofer Institute in Applied Photonics, the Innovative Medicines Initiative’s European Lead Factory in Drug Discovery, and perhaps most significantly the Innovation Centres programme. This collaborative approach has also extended to supporting our universities with their international endeavours through Connected Scotland.  It is widely recognised that more needs to be done if the research base is going to extend its role in helping to transform the Scottish economy but it is important to acknowledge that HEIs and research are part of the solution but not all of the solution.  

Over the last four years higher education and research as been relatively well resourced. As a consequence of the continued Scottish Government investment, and the priorities in the Programme for Government, much is expected of SFC and of the college and university sectors in dealing with the economic challenges and opportunities ahead. It is vital that we continue to build a robust framework that has the capacity to support innovation and provide a skilled workforce. We look forward to the Growing Value Scotland Task Force reporting next year in what will be Scotland’s ‘Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design’. Together with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, SFC will continue its efforts to deliver on the Scottish Government’s programme for government and ensure university business collaboration plays a significant role in sustaining our economic growth.




1 The GES is being updated to more closely reflect the new Programme for Government.
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