Scotland House played host to the first event in its Future Forum series this week, a programme of breakfast debates looking at the future of business.

‘Innovating for Success: From Idea to Impact’ brought together leaders in science and innovation to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the innovation landscape in Scotland and the rest of the UK. The discussion was chaired by Michael Hayman MBE, Co-Founder of Seven Hills.

Joining him to discuss innovation were Katrina Payne, Partnerships Development Lead at the Alan Turing Institute; Dr Graeme Malcom OBE, CEO and Founder at M Squared Lasers; and Andrew Roughan, Managing Director of Plexal.

Scottish Government Head of Economic Policy and Networks, London, Directorate for External Affairs Mark Boyce introduced the debate by considering the importance of innovation today, and discussing Scotland’s can-do strategy to become a world leader in innovation.
Assessing the innovation landscape, the shared view was that the UK has plenty of reasons to be optimistic but could do more to capitalise on its strengths: innovation requires great talent and research – but above all, a confident, positive attitude.

Speakers argued that the UK needs to focus on areas where industry and academia can collaborate, and that the UK has no shortage of good ideas, but there is often a problem of scalability.

Scaling up for Success

As the discussion turned to scalability, speakers acknowledged that while the UK is great at launching start-ups, it is less successful at scaling them, and agreed that there was a need to simplify the process of taking ideas from academia to industry.

The discussion identified a need for a more modern approach to commercialisation. Katrina Payne remarked: “We need to move beyond old models for research and investment and bring together commercial start-up attitudes with the precision of academic research. It’s very hard for the two worlds to come together but we need to bring some of the rigour from business into academia. We’ve got better but we have a way to go.”

Innovating for the Future

Today innovation helps make businesses more competitive across international markets. But which are the global markets to watch? Canada was cited as an example of a nation doing innovation right while Israel, Singapore and Korea were identified as the current world leaders – with speakers remarking that UK could be a world leader in innovation subject to the right funding models.

Looking ahead at how the UK can encourage more innovation in the future, Andrew Roughan remarked that “It’s about how companies show they’re creating a world leading solution to a global problem.” Positivity is also key: Graeme Malcolm argued that we must celebrate our successes more – for example, in Scotland almost 80% of energy is low carbon, and this isn’t well known.

The debate considered innovation’s role beyond GDP: ultimately, the consensus was that innovation can take many forms, but it needs partnerships, funding and optimism to ensure it achieves its true potential – that of solving the unsolvable problems of our time.

Future Forum at Scotland House

Scotland House is committed to the future of business.

Join us at our next breakfast debate Scotland: Tech Nation of the Future,’where we’ll debate and discuss how Scotland can encourage technological disruption as a force for good. The event will be held at Scotland House on Wednesday 22 January 2020.