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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

No. I am afraid that I am pressed for time.

Scotland’s R and D expenditure is lagging behind at £466 per head, while the UK average is £544 per head. Furthermore, it has been noted that, in comparison with the rest of the UK, R and D activity in Scotland is heavily concentrated, with almost 40 per cent of total expenditure coming from just five companies. As most investment companies will know, it is important to diversify a portfolio. I would like to know what co-ordination takes place with the UK Government—with agricultural engineering precision innovation centres, for instance—and whether calls for farms and facilities in the north-east to be involved will be supported, given that we have seen what the correct investment and geographical spread can do.

Earlier, I referred to the Data Lab, which has outlined that demand for skilled data scientists continues to grow in Scotland, underlining its strength as a global leader in the field. That has been reflected in the biggest ever intake of Data Lab MSc students across Scotland.

We must keep investing if we want to keep up as a global leader, and not just in data science. Innovation is about supporting a cross-sector of industries, and the Scottish National Party Government needs to look to the UK Government to find inspiration in how it can do better in supporting innovation across Scotland.

As part of the UK Government’s modern industrial strategy, the chancellor announced £215 million in extra funding for its catapult centres, which focus on digital, medicines discovery, future cities and transport systems. Furthermore, in 2018, a further £780 million was announced, meaning that the UK Government is spending more than a billion pounds on innovation.

Innovation is the building block in ensuring that Scotland’s economy can continue to thrive efficiently and keep up with the UK, the EU and the wider global economy.

Scotland used to be a global leader, and we must strive to return to that position. In 1707, Scotland’s brilliance was unleashed on to the world through the Act of Union. However, since 2007, we have had an SNP Government that is fixated on breaking up the union and holding back Scotland’s brilliance. We can only—