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Supporting Innovation

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Ivan McKee Ivan McKee Scottish National Party

I am just about to go through a long list of things that we are doing. As I have just said, that gap is closing: we have increased business R and D spend by 14 per cent in the past year, compared with the UK Government’s increase of 3 per cent. If Daniel Johnson cares to get his calculator out, he will realise that that represents a significant closing of the gap within a one-year period. That trend is continuing as we move towards our target of doubling R and D business expenditure.

The innovation action plan identifies four priorities: to encourage more business innovation; to use public sector needs and spend to catalyse innovation; to support innovation across sectors and places; and to make best use of college and university research, knowledge and talent.

In the two years since the plan’s launch, a great deal has been achieved. We have boosted our support for business R and D grants by £45 million, which is equivalent to 70 per cent. We have invested £48 million in the national manufacturing institute Scotland and created the £14 million advanced manufacturing challenge fund. Along with Innovate UK and private sector partners, we have invested £15 million to establish the medicines manufacturing innovation centre. We have launched the can do innovation challenge fund, which leverages private sector innovation to solve public sector challenges. We have increased our support for CivTech, which is the world's first cross public sector tech accelerator. We have invested £1 million in the college innovation fund to help businesses to connect better with college facilities and expertise. We have supported the £1 million cancer innovation challenge programme. We have increased our investment in Interface, which has introduced almost 3,000 businesses to academic partners. We have launched an open innovation marketplace in which public and private sector innovation challenges can be posted and solved. We have invested in supporting industry academic links through programmes such as the knowledge transfer partnerships scheme. We have continued to fund our network of innovation centres by up to £60 million over the next five years. We have piloted new models of procurement through the launch of two innovation partnerships.

Further, recognising the need to continually optimise the innovation ecosystem, we have created the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board to increase collaboration between the enterprise agencies. We have also initiated in-depth reviews of public sector support for innovation; mapped out our innovation system and infrastructure; started work on the creation of a single entry point for business support; and set out plans for streamlining R and D support.

We are also investing in the future. We have committed £2 billion of capital to the Scottish national investment bank to support mission-oriented investments, starting with our transition to net zero emissions. We have launched a new major export drive, backed by £20 million, to internationalise our innovation efforts. We are putting innovation at the heart of our city region deals, with support for projects including the imaging centre of excellence in Glasgow and the Data-Driven Innovation programme in Edinburgh and south-east Scotland. We are also supporting entrepreneurs through the Unlocking Ambition Challenge, the Converge Challenge, Scale Up Scotland and Scottish EDGE.

All of that is having an impact. Members can witness the range of new products and services that our businesses are taking to market, from Clyde Space, which produces and ships from its headquarters in Glasgow more cube satellites than anyone else in the world, to Caithness-based Dunnet Bay Distillers, which can now post its rock rose gin through its customers’ letterboxes thanks to its new recyclable gin pouches.

As we all know, the contribution that our universities make to global research and innovation continues to be nothing short of remarkable. We sit near the top of the OECD table for higher education R and D spend. We have four of the world’s top 200 universities—