Policy actions  4 of 5

Innovation and entrepreneurship

We want to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that will help to grow and diversify Scotland's business base, while also helping people of all backgrounds to fulfil their potential.

Through Scotland CAN DO we continue to work with public, private and third sector partners towards the goal of becoming a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation. A place where growth and innovation go hand in hand with wider benefits to all of society.

This includes supporting and promoting a wide range of activities designed to promote a 'CAN DO' culture at all levels of society.


In the context of Scotland CAN DO, we define 'an innovation' as an idea that creates economic value for individuals and society. Innovations can occur in any field or sector, and can be part of a business, team or government's strategic approach.

We have an important role to play in increasing business awareness of, and investment in, innovation in an ever-changing economic landscape. Businesses who are innovative are more resilient and more likely to maintain and build on their success.

We are investing in research, innovation and technology, as well as supporting entrepreneurial activity, as we believe these will be crucial in shaping Scotland's future and helping to create sustainable economic growth.

In the Programme for Government 2017 to 2018 we committed to increasing investment in business research and development (BERD) in Scotland as part of our goal to double BERD between 2015 and 2025. We aim to achieve this by:

  • increasing spending on business R&D grants by £15m from 2018-2019 to 2020-2021
  • providing financial support for local solutions and small scale research and development
  • continuing to develop a range of policies to encourage business innovation investment
  • encouraging universities and colleges to increase the effectiveness of their contribution to business innovation; and
  • maximising the impact of our infrastructure investment and procurement on business research and development in areas such as electric vehicles, digital and mobile technologies

Innovation action plan

We published the Innovation Action Plan in January 2017 as part of the Enterprise and Skills Review. Since then we have supported business creation, growth and innovation by:

1. Directly encouraging more business innovation:

  • committing an additional £15 million per annum for business research and development grants
  • providing public sector innovation support to businesses across Scotland via our Enterprise Agencies
  • establishing a Joint Innovation Communications and Marketing Group with agency partners to amplify innovation messaging by celebrating existing success and raising business awareness

2. Using public sector needs and spend to catalyse innovation:

  • developing a co-ordinated programme of mission-oriented challenges, including the £9 million CAN DO Innovation Challenge Fund with Scottish Enterprise and the CivTech Programme
  • working with public bodies on Procurement Innovation Partnerships to procure new goods and services to solve social challenges, which will create opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) including microbusinesses

3. Supporting innovation across sectors and places

4. Making best use of University research knowledge and talent to drive growth and equip Scotland’s people with the tools and skills needed to innovate:

  • working with universities and colleges to deliver leadership and entrepreneurial skills training for emerging entrepreneurs, innovators and businesses
  • piloting a £500,000 College Innovation Fund to support Scotland's colleges to work with businesses on innovation activity
  • increasing grant funding for university research and innovation
  • increasing investment in Interface, Scotland's hub to connect business and academia
  • investing £120 million in the Innovation Centre programme, which aims to enhance innovation and entrepreneurship across Scotland's key economic sectors, create jobs, and grow the economy

Innovation action plan activities are scrutinised by the Scotland CAN DO: Business Innovation Forum, which also aims to increase business awareness of the benefits of innovation.



We have encouraged and helped businesses to start up, grow and innovate by:

  • investing almost £1 million annually in the Scottish EDGE Fund competition for Scotland's most talented and ambitious early-stage entrepreneurs
  • working with Co-operative Development Scotland to promote alternative and progressive business models by supporting Scotland for employee ownership
  • investing in the launch of : a £4 million flagship entrepreneurial development fund that supports highly ambitious entrepreneurs chosen for their individual potential, the quality of their ideas and the contribution they can make to the Scottish economy and wider society
  • supporting the growth of an effective and integrated Scale movement for businesses on the path to exceptional growth - including the CAN DO Scale programme and the Scale Up Scotland programme
  • investing in the establishment of VentureFest: a festival of discovery and innovation
  • supporting the implementation of Business Improvement Districts, where businesses work together to invest in local improvements

Youth and education

We began developing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among Scotland's young people and students by investing £200,000 in the Bridge 2 Business initiative, helping students into enterprise.

We are continuing to develop this culture by:

EU funding

Scottish organisations can access innovation-related funding from the European Union (EU). One prominent source of EU funding is the Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation.

Since 2014, Horizon 2020 has provided funding to help the best ideas and discoveries to reach the market quickly, so that their results may help drive social and economic growth in Europe.

As of June 2018, Scottish businesses have secured more than €81 million of Horizon 2020 funding with SMEs accounting for €68.5 million of this.

Wider impact

We have strengthened the social and economic impact of CAN DO across Scotland by: