Scotland thrives in a climate of world-class innovation
There’s nothing new about innovation. The forces it encompasses – curiosity, creativity, invention – have been behind every advance in the human condition since we learnt to make fire and shelter.
What’s different about innovation in the 21st century is that it’s everywhere. Technology makes it possible for ideas to travel quickly, to be developed quickly and to be translated into products, policies and services at a pace that would have been unimaginable even a couple of decades ago.
The question is: where does Scotland sit in this global maelstrom of creative and commercial activity? How does it contribute? How does it benefit? As an organisation that sits at the heart of Scotland’s university and college system, these questions have come to define the work the Scottish Funding Council does to support the country’s future well-being and prosperity.
The answer begins with the observation that Scotland has two things that uniquely position it to thrive in this climate of innovation; world-class university research and the ability to collaborate. The ability to collaborate is a happy by-product of Scotland’s modern geography (small, connected country) and also something about the way we go about things here.
We’re exploiting both of these advantages in the new Scottish Innovation Centres, a £124 million investment from the Scottish Funding Council and supported in partnership with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Scottish Innovation Centres are industry-led and unique in their ability to combine commercial knowledge with specialist expertise from universities across Scotland.
What’s really exciting is that we’re already beginning to innovate with innovation centres. We’re asking what could happen if we make a “super-link” between, say innovators in digital health and care and innovators in big data. From this year we’re making available £1 million for collaboration across innovation centres to tackle big industrial and societal challenges.
The future of innovation and commercialisation lies in the cross-fertilisation of ideas from different areas. There are exciting times ahead and I look forward to big steps forward for Scotland in this Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.
Laurence Howells - 15 Jul 2016