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Scottish Government publishes National Innovation Strategy for next decade

18th July 2023

Last month the Scottish Government published its National Innovation Strategy for the coming decade with ambitions of becoming ranked as one of the most innovative small countries in the world, taking inspiration from the Nordics. The strategy was developed through consultation with business and academia, including a steering group chaired by Sir Jim McDonald, vice-chancellor of the University of Strathclyde. In today’s blog, we summarise the Scottish Government’s plans. 

Four Programmes of Action were set out along with a new measure of performance to benchmark success via an Innovation Scorecard. Under the new 10-year strategy, Scotland’s public sector, which employs approximately 22% of the workforce, is set to take an ‘innovate first’ approach. It will play a leading role in supporting the development of a world-class innovation ecosystem, engaging with industry, academia, investors, and the entrepreneurial community. 

Building Successful Innovation Clusters 

The first Programme of Action aims to demonstrate collective national expertise in several specialism priority areas across Scotland via geographically concentrated economic clusters. Economic clusters are cited as being a key driver in the pace and quality of innovation; as well as increasing productivity and boosting wage growth.  

Two of the four innovation priority areas identified include: 

Other priority areas include Advanced Manufacturing, and Net Zero. Under this Programme, Scotland’s ambition is to become an entrepreneurial start-up nation. Scotland’s approach will align with the current European cluster management accreditation scheme EUCLES, enabling clusters to benchmark themselves against others, sharing ‘best practice’ approaches, and promoting international collaboration. 

Innovation Investment 

The second is an Innovation Investment Programme, setting the country on course to adopt an investor mindset. Scotland’s public sector will become an anchor customer for innovation, with a significant proportion of public sector funding to be ringfenced for support and investment into the above-mentioned identified priority areas.  

An Innovation Funding Review will be completed by the end of this year, and in 2024 a renewed and consolidated Innovation Investment Programme will be announced which will take a more joined-up approach in aligning funds, avoiding duplication.  

The ambition is that Scotland’s share of UK and European innovation funding, via programmes such as Innovate UK and Horizon Europe, will increase. The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is part of Pillar 3 of Horizon Europe and contributes to achieving several key strategic orientations of its Strategic Plan, such as strengthening sustainable innovation ecosystems across Europe. 

Innovation-led Entrepreneurship and Commercialisation 

The third Programme aims to establish Scotland’s higher education sector as a hotbed for the creation of scalable businesses. Scotland is ranked the top performing country in the OECD in terms of Higher Education investment in R&D as a percentage of GDP. However, at present, Scotland produces 50% less spin-outs than other parts of the UK. Under the Innovation-led Entrepreneurship and Commercialisation Programme, Scotland will play to its strengths by encouraging higher education institutions and their alumni to convert research and cutting edge technologies into innovative products and scaling companies.  

This Programme will be achieved under a new Research Commercialisation Framework which will foster entrepreneurial culture, encourage spin-out support and build effective collaborations between researchers and businesses. A Scottish Innovation Fund to the value of £100 million will be made available for investment into early-stage deep-tech start-ups. 

National Productivity Programme 

An innovation themed National Productivity Programme will be produced that links productivity and innovation. More of Scotland’s businesses, particularly SMEs, will be encouraged to grow and diversify through innovation.  

Innovation Scorecard 

Performance of all four Programmes and associated activities will be measured by an Innovation Scorecard and benchmarked against other nations annually. European countries and regions are currently assessed in four performance groups:  

  1. Innovation leaders
  2. Strong Innovators
  3. Moderate Innovators
  4. Emerging Innovators

Scotland’s innovation credentials are currently ranked as ‘strong’ alongside nations such as Ireland, Norway, Iceland, and Austria. Those that fall under the innovation ‘leaders’ category include Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Sweden, and South East England. Scotland’s new National Innovation Strategy sets a commitment to engage across Europe and internationally to learn from other nations in how to measure and assess innovation performance and impact. 

At EIT Health, we promote innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe. Our network connects three sides of the knowledge triangle – business, research and education – to shape the healthcare innovation landscape, together for healthier lives for patients in Europe. Learn more about EIT Health, the countries we work across, and the collaborative innovation projects we support.  

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