Ivan McKee, Scottish Government Minister for Trade, Inward Investment & Innovation, believes Scotland can draw on its history of innovation and manufacturing to ‘build back better’ in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at the CanDo Innovation Summit today, McKee said the Scottish Government aims to show that “Scotland is an innovation nation not just historically, but now and in the future.”
A prime example of Scotland’s continued culture of innovation was its initial response to the coronavirus pandemic last year. McKee hailed the response from Scottish industry and its ability to pivot rapidly to tackle unprecedented challenges.
“In the early stages [of the pandemic] there were concerns about the supply of ventilators and the supply of PPE,” he said.
“The Scottish Government engaged with partners including enterprise agencies, businesses universities, the national manufacturing institute for Scotland and others to support businesses that could manufacture PPE to start doing so at volume.”
Very quickly, McKee said, Scotland went from a position where it manufactured “practically none” of its PPE to a position where it manufactured nearly half. That number now stands at 80%, he added.
This rapid pivot to meet the initial challenges of the pandemic should be viewed as a “huge success story” and underlines the strength and resilience of Scotland’s varied industry sectors, McKee insisted.
Looking ahead to the challenges of 2021 and to a post-Covid global environment, Scotland must maintain the same resilient mindset, he insisted. Furthermore, by drawing on examples of the past, of Scotland’s rich history in manufacturing and industry, the country can capitalise on the opportunities that will present themselves in years to come.
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“It’s now about taking that attitude, that entrepreneurial and innovation approach and translating it right across businesses in Scotland and keeping it going.
“Scotland has a huge and proud history in innovation going back centuries. We can all reel off the great inventors and what they created that Scotland is so proud of. But modern Scotland and the Scottish Government is hugely focused on building on that history and taking it forward,” he said.
McKee further outlined the Scottish Government’s “ambitious” targets to improve and bolster enterprise research and development spend. Holyrood previously said it hoped to double R&D spending by 2025. However, speaking today, McKee revealed that the government is ahead of this target.
He also higlighted the Inward Investment Plan for Scotland. Published last year, the report detailed the government’s ambition to attract global businesses to Scotland while supporting home-grown entrepreneurs and industry.
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The report highlighted a number of key subsectors where Scotland boasts genuine global competitiveness, including digitisation, net-zero and advanced manufacturing. It is in these areas, McKee said, that Scotland can capitalise on rapid growth and develop a reputation as a global hub of innovation.
“These are the areas that we want to focus on and build Scotland’s economy for the future. Focusing on clusters which are very often centred around our world-class academic excellence, working with the businesses we have in Scotland and attracting inward investors globally to come and be part of that success story,” he said.
Industry events such as the Can Do Innovation Summit play a key role in raising Scotland’s global profile in this regard, McKee added. By bringing together figures from a range of industry sectors, nations and backgrounds, the Summit helps to cultivate and nurture an international, collaborative business culture.
“The event today really brings that together,” he said. “It’s about making sure that you’ve got the support you need from government and it’s about making sure that those networking opportunities are there.”