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Supporting Innovation

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

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Photo of Alexander Burnett Alexander Burnett Conservative

I thank the Scottish Government for bringing the debate to the chamber to celebrate the amazing work of those in the innovation sector and the positive effect that they have on the Scottish and UK economy.

I have been fortunate enough to visit a number of the innovation centres across Scotland and I have seen at first hand the huge value that they add to our industries by drawing on all Scotland’s research expertise in their relevant sectors to work on problems and opportunities that are identified by industry.

From aquaculture in Stirling to oil and gas in Aberdeen and construction in Glasgow, those centres are all bringing top-quality research and development expertise to the challenges of their respective industries. Although all are outstanding, the Data Lab in particular has made a great impression. Data science is a unknown field to many people, yet job titles in the field will soon become commonplace.

Data science is expected to contribute more than £20 billion to Scotland’s economy by the end of next year and to generate more that £590 million in economic and social impact in Scotland over the next five years. The centres in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen, which I will visit next month, show how quickly the sector can be rolled out to the benefit of all parts of Scotland. The hard work of Gillian Docherty and Jude McCorry and their team in keeping Scotland at the forefront of such an exciting sector must be commended.

It is important that all sectors receive the backing of both the UK and Scottish Governments in delivering for Scotland by funding projects across the country—building on existing talent and infrastructure to continue to transform Scotland’s economy into one that is highly skilled and highly paid.

As members will be aware, the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee published a report last year that covered investment in innovation. It noted that, in 2016, total R and D spending as a share of gross domestic product was 1.54 per cent for Scotland, which is lower than for both the UK and the EU. Through the economic strategy, there is an acknowledgement that innovation is influential in relation to economic performance, but investment is lacking. The historical issue of companies being headquartered outside Scotland could also contribute to low R and D investment.