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Ideas and money alone won't get us there...

Why a joined-up, total system for innovation is what Scotland needs now

Like every carefully crafted tartan cloth, the fabric of Scotland's innovation system needs to be thought-out and joined up. You can't start weaving without a plan.

As a business working with innovative organisations across the UK, Europe and Middle East, we appreciate the many challenges of bringing about lasting change in an innovation culture. There is no quick fix; any worthwhile transformation may take months or years.

Scotland is on its own innovation and entrepreneurship journey, with economic growth as the measure of success.

A few weeks ago we were encouraged by colleagues in Scottish Government to make a contribution to the open consultation on the country's innovation strategy. Part of the homework was reading the detailed Economic Evidence Paper, issued by the office of the economic advisor.

We found the questions in the consultation document clear, thoughtful and provocative. We focused on those questions that highlighted the lack of an overall innovation system, which is an issue that crosses over sectors and technologies.

Our final submission-in-full also turned out to be a really useful manifesto of what the Eureka!Europe team believes about evidence-based innovation.

Here are the highlights from our executive summary:

Businesses need to recognise the need to innovate and want to grow.

This is especially true for the SMEs that make up 90+% of the Scottish economy, and who provide most of the job growth. However, it must be recognised that a proportion of these businesses legitimately do not want to grow. Therefore, the focus of the Scottish Government’s effort and resources needs to be on their ‘ambivalent’ and ‘ambitious’ SME peers, the early adopters and the willing.

There are effective parts of the Scottish innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem, but there is no overarching innovation system design

At the moment, the many parts are being individually optimised (funded, improved, resourced, managed). A ‘total system’ redesign is required, with defined sub-systems that include: Education, Alignment, Collaboration, Validation Testing, Business Opportunity Recommendation, Funding and Intellectual Property. Existing sub-systems such as Research can be integrated and adapted where required, ensuring the overall system goal of economic growth can be realised.

Academia and Business collaboration is most effective when the working relationships are facilitated by skilled third parties

Advising on the initial ‘fit’ of know-how (academia) and requirements (business), these 'guides' provide continuity throughout the innovation project and across its various phases. Importantly, they also minimise the interfaces and hand-off points between government agencies and other service providers.

A combination of money, mentorship, and skills development drives better return on investment.

Investing a portion of start-up / scale-up funding in innovation and entrepreneurial capability building means that the money works harder; creating internal know-how allows entrepreneurs to ‘try again’ if their first ideas fail and allows successful SMEs to repeat their success with new services, products or business models in the future. Supporting and coordinating the entrepreneurial journey requires skilled innovation facilitators, who know how to make effective use of Scotland’s total innovation system.

Change the funding imbalance between Higher Education R&D (well-funded) and Business R&D (under-invested).

A successful and sustainable innovation system allocates 80-90% of the innovation budget on the development and delivery of the innovation. With clearly defined Idea Creation and Validation Testing sub-systems at the front end of innovation, research shows the odds of innovation success are increased by 250%, with most of the budget available for commercialisation.

We've backed up our thinking with references and hard data. If the ideas in our submission have sparked questions or fresh thinking - get in touch .


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