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Entrepreneurship in Scotland: a report card

By Eleanor Shaw - Posted on 21 March 2018

In the first of a series of three blogs starting today, Professor Eleanor Shaw prepares a 'report card' looking at the impact that can be created in Scotland through partnerships and collaborations across different sectors, different sizes of organisations and different locations.

In preparing this series of blogs, I have been reflecting on what it is that we do well when our universities, research centres and colleges partner with external organisations and clients to tackle key economic, social and environmental concerns and, ultimately, to drive the economy in Scotland forward through innovation and internationalisation and to do so in a way that encourages interesting, skilled opportunities for our graduates; generates new jobs for local and regional economies and, most critically, provides an ambitious vision for Scotland that is entirely within our grasp - if we seize the opportunities created through collaboration and partnership.

If I were to prepare a ‘report card’, reflecting on the impact of Scotland’s knowledge exchange activities, I think I’d draw attention to some of our key strengths:

  • Our fabulous entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystems: in addition to our world leading academic institutions, research centres and colleges, we are lucky to have many other partners working with us: Interface; Converge; SIE; Scottish Edge; Knowledge Transfer Partnerships; Innovation centres; access to Innovation Vouchers, to name just a few of the organisations and initiatives supporting entrepreneurship and innovation. Add to this, engagements with industry, innovation driven enterprises, social enterprises and growing SMEs and the breadth of our capacity in this area is impressive.
  • Scotland’s compact size which makes it easy for us to get to know one another, to collaborate and for our collaborations to have excellent impact.
  • Our deep well of entrepreneurial talent and potential which cuts across all sectors and sizes, ranging from well-known entrepreneurial successes including Skyscanner, M Squared Lasers, Clyde Space and Clin Tech to the emerging leaders of organisations as diverse as Head Space Design, Pick Protection and Novosound.
  • Our wonderful social enterprises and Scotland’s strength as a socially conscious society: Scotland should be proud that, globally, it now boasts one of the most progressive environments in which to start and to scale a social enterprise. Indeed there is much more potential and greater social, environmental and economic impact to be had from greater and deeper knowledge exchanges between social enterprise and Scotland’s academic and research institutions.

In that section of the report card titled, ‘Could Do Better’, I’d want to ask: What are the critical things we as a nation can do that have the potential to be truly transformative and ensure that our collective desire for Scotland to be a ‘Can Do’ nation becomes a reality?

Specifically, I’d ask:

  • What can we do to be more joined up, more collaborative?
  • How can we encourage a Scottish psyche that’s built on open, growth-focused mind-sets?
  • What lessons can we learn from successful innovation districts, cities and zones to ensure we keep and attract the very best talent in and to Scotland?
  • Even more of a challenge: what can we do to encourage us, as a nation, to be much more ambitious?
  • And finally, how can we build the leadership capacity and excellence needed to initiate and grow innovative organisations with global reach which provide opportunities for talented graduates, apprentices, entrepreneurs, creatives, inventors and innovators? 

I’ll be looking at these five areas in more depth over two further blogs.

The next blog will be live tomorrow.

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