Innovation

Our vision is for a Scotland where innovation is an intrinsic part of our culture, our society and our economy. We are committed to creating a nurturing environment for businesses and entrepreneurs to flourish and innovate, developing and manufacturing the technologies of the future. 

Innovation creates jobs, develops fresh, exciting opportunities and supports economic and productivity growth. 

Scotland has a long and enviable tradition of innovation and is globally renowned for many inventions and technological advances over the years. We are an innovation nation, from television and toasters to ATMs and Ultrasound our inventions have helped shape the world around us.

Innovation benefits companies by improving business practices, products and profits and it enables them to reach new markets and adapt to changing situations. It benefits our people by enhancing and enriching lives with improved products or services.

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Scottish businesses have proven how innovative they can be, from repurposing bottling plants to the rapid development of new PPE supply chains. We recognise and applaud their openness to change and adaptability. However we must harness this spirit of co-operation and collaboration must continue helping Scotland recover a strong sustainable economy.

As Scotland moves forward into its recovery phase, innovation is essential to create a resilient economy, to support our people’s wellbeing and the transition toward a greener, net zero country.

Scotland is globally renowned for its research excellence, acting as a magnet for inward investment and attracting global companies to locate in Scotland. Research and development (R&D), alongside collaboration with academia is vital to exchange knowledge, experience and ideas to develop new products and services or enhance existing ones. This helps businesses remain relevant, increases their productivity and in turn their profitability.  By doing so, this makes them globally competitive.

The translation of academic research into products and services that businesses can commercialise is essential for Scotland’s economic recovery.  This enables inclusive growth by creating jobs throughout the country and contributes towards Scotland’s social ambitions to tackle inequalities, diversity and poverty.

Investment in R & D is a key indicator of the level of innovation in a country. Innovative economies are more likely to have capacity for sustainable economic growth and be more resilient to changing economic conditions. This is why we have set ourselves a target to grow our Business Enterprise Research and Development (BERD) expenditure to £1.75 billion by 2025 and committed an additional £45 million from FY2018/19 to FY2020/21 for business R&D grants to support this.

Public sector support for business innovation is provided by our enterprise and skills agencies – Scottish Enterprise(SE), Highlands and Islands Enterprise(HIE), Skills Development Scotland(SDS) and the Scottish Funding Council(SFC). Our agencies, colleges and universities have played an important role in developing this environment and in helping our businesses to thrive and grow.

SFC in partnership with SE and HIE established a programme of innovation centres bringing the expertise and capabilities of Scotland’s universities, research institutes, colleges and businesses, to address industry demand led opportunities that support growth of the Scottish economy.

Another collaboration mechanism is Interface, who connect businesses to engage with academia to create and develop new products, services and processes.

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:

  • directly encouraging more business innovation
  • using public sector needs and spend to catalyse innovation
  • supporting innovation across sectors and places
  • 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

Business support for innovation

To help you find business support for all company sizes and sectors across Scotland, including help and advice for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic visit the Business Support website.

If you are looking for help to develop a business from your idea or innovation, there is a wide variety of free support available from Business Gateway

If you have a business already, you can find further information from Business Gateway on support for innovation and R&D. This may be of interest if you plan to research and develop new products or services and you may be able to get funding for R&D, tax credits or support from the government.

Scottish Enterprise also provide innovation support directly to companies based in Scotland. This includes business support to all sectors, at all stages of development, advice on how to secure investment, introductions to project partners within industry and academia, amongst other advice on digital solutions and intellectual assets and property.

Information on UK funding and innovation competitions is available at Innovate UK. It is the UK's innovation agency and they work with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations to grow the UK economy.

The Nesta website offers guidance on practical tools, resources, funding opportunities and how their specialist teams can help you to innovate.

Programme for Government (PfG)

Innovation should not been seen in isolation, it is part of a whole ecosystem to assist businesses to survive and grow. In the Government's Programme for Scotland 2020-2021 published on 1 September 2020, we outline the actions we will take to drive innovation across various sectors in the coming year and beyond.

As highlighted in the PfG, we will do this by:

  • continuing to recognise that the knowledge created in our colleges and universities is vital to enable people to have the skills, and our economy the innovation, to recover
  • driving growth in some of our most promising economic sectors such as software, fintech and data driven businesses. These industries are not only an exciting part of Scotland’s economic future with strong potential to create high value jobs – they are also catalysing innovation in our more traditional industries
  • building much closer links between the private and public sector as we have seen the benefits of this across many areas, notably testing and (personal protective equipment) PPE
  • further strengthening Scotland’s life sciences sector’s ability to innovate and to support Scotland’s NHS and social care sector by working to establish a Scottish Health and Industry Partnership to rapidly coordinate work that can benefit both Scotland’s economy and our health and wellbeing priorities

This partnership will accelerate innovation in Scotland to solve real problems in the NHS and Social care, creating jobs and opportunities for businesses as we have done with meeting the PPE challenge. This will deliver innovation at scale, maximising regional, academic, and industrial innovation to support delivery of the Scottish Government’s Remobilise, Recover and Redesign Framework for the NHS and Social Care and support economic recovery.

Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, Ivan McKee, highlighted how innovative life sciences companies in Scotland specifically, are supporting the COVID-19 effort, in his statement to Parliament and following report on 26 August 2020.

Underpinning all of our efforts will be a clear focus on driving digital innovation. We must keep pace with digital innovation so we can help boost economic growth, drive innovation and protect businesses against any future crisis.

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.