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Supporting Innovation

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

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Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

Innovation is a central feature of a strong economy. The Scottish Government says:

“we define ‘an innovation’ as an idea that creates economic value for individuals and society.”

Innovation can boost productivity, competitiveness and growth. It can lead to improved earnings for the workforce and greater profitability for companies. It can contribute to improving sustainable, inclusive economic growth.

The Scottish Government wants to build on Scotland’s rich history of innovation by supporting the talent and potential of Scotland’s entrepreneurs, inventors and businesses. The goal is to ensure that Scotland is recognised as a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation.

To support innovation, in 2017 the Scottish Government published, “Scotland Can Do—Boosting Scotland’s Innovation Performance: An Innovation Action Plan For Scotland”. The aim is to see Scotland ranked in the top quartile of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries for productivity, sustainability, equality and wellbeing. To achieve that ambitious aim, the Scottish Government is working to ensure that Scotland achieves a strong innovation performance rating.

As part of the innovation action plan, the Scottish Government has committed £45 million over two years for additional research and development grants. Last year, 75 R and D grants totalling £123 million were awarded to projects. Between 2016 and 2017, Scotland’s gross expenditure on research and development increased by 8.3 per cent in real terms, to £2,529 million, which was a £193 million increase on the previous year.

The Scottish Government has also committed to increasing investment in business enterprise research and development, as part of its goal to double that investment between 2015 and 2025. In line with that, BERD expenditure in Scotland in 2017 was £l,247 billion, which represents a 93.6 per cent increase in real terms between 2007 and 2017. That stands in stark contrast with the UK Government’s increase of only 27.2 per cent over the same period.

As part of the Scottish Government’s innovation action plan, the can do innovation challenge fund was established to drive a process that is known as open innovation. It supports the public sector as it develops innovative market solutions to operational service and policy delivery challenges. To date, 16 organisations have been funded to run 18 challenges. More than 100 small and medium-sized enterprises have applied to the fund, with £1.36 million having been awarded. The can do innovation forum is designed to formulate and implement proposals to improve Scotland’s innovation performance. It brings together key representatives from business, industry and academia, along with the Scottish Government and its enterprise agencies.

I am the representative of an Ayrshire constituency: innovation is nothing new to us. It is an intrinsic feature of our culture, which is why many advances that have shaped the modern world were discovered or invented in Ayrshire, from fingerprinting to pneumatic tyres. The Scottish Government has committed to investing £103 million to the Ayrshire growth deal, which includes £40 million to develop innovative projects around engineering, digital automation and manufacturing.

In total, the Scottish Government has committed to investing £245.5 million on growth deals for Ayrshire, the borderlands, Moray, and Argyll and Bute, alongside £1.275 billion in city region deals for Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Stirling and Clackmannanshire, the Tay cities and Edinburgh.

Given that education and innovation are deeply connected, the Scottish Government is working to develop the innovative capacity and performance of business and the economy through training and education. This year, 2019, is the second year of the college innovation fund, which provides £500,000 to produce new course material to support emerging industries. The Government also supports the Scotland can do scale programme, which helps entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses through provision of world-class training.

In addition, a £48 million investment in the national manufacturing institute for Scotland at Inchinnan will make Scotland a global leader in advanced manufacturing. The institute will offer Scottish businesses access to expert services, advanced demonstrator facilities and training programmes that are focused on innovative manufacturing.

I also welcome the development of innovation and investment hubs overseas, which are designed to work across a wider network, including Government, partners and businesses to support Scottish innovation. Each hub works to promote Scotland’s research, innovation, industrial, social and cultural strengths.

To show the importance of developing innovation, in June 2018 the First Minister announced a new ministerial post—the Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, which is held by Ivan McKee.

Innovation will improve Scotland’s long-term productivity, and will enable growth and delivery of higher living standards for the people of Scotland.