With a sense of togetherness that inherently supports collaboration, the innovation sector in Scotland is working together to build resilience and agility that will see it not only survive through but thrive beyond the pandemic.

There is no doubt that 2020 was a very different year but world-class universities, coupled with an ambitious business-led innovation culture, is standing the country in good stead to take on the inevitable challenges and grasp the opportunities of the coming 12 months.

Scotland was recently singled out alongside other areas such as the North of England as a new powerhouse for technology innovation in an initiative from UK Tech Cluster Group and London Tech Week. It cited the country’s data, digital and technology industries as particularly driving adoption of quantum computing, artificial intelligence and 5G.

Pace of change 

A collaboration model that has continued to thrive in Scotland despite the challenging operating context over recent months is the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) programme. Right now, there are 118 Scottish businesses engaged in KTP.

KTN is a delivery partner of the programme, providing strategic management via its network of 31 specialist Knowledge Transfer Advisers (KTAs) based throughout the UK.

Jim Berryman, the KTA for the Central Belt and South of Scotland, says the acceleration of Industry 4.0 is an area where Scottish innovation is leading the pace of change; he also cites autonomous and driverless heavy-duty vehicles as an area to watch in the coming months.

The programme, which has been running for more than 45 years and is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through government sponsors including Innovate UK and Scottish Funding Council, has been supporting pioneering Scottish innovation throughout the pandemic. ‘I am seeing many KTPs thrive. It enables businesses to improve resilience and embed innovative capability,’ says Berryman.

Dr Abigail Hird, Knowledge Transfer Manager for Manufacturing at KTN, agrees the model finds itself particularly well suited to Scotland. She says, ‘The KTP centre infrastructure and the KTA relationships make doing KTP in Scotland even easier than elsewhere in the UK. Additionally, organisations like Interface help ensure that the very best academics are matched to the projects.’

Strength through KTPs

One such example is Phoenix Instinct which closed off 2020 by winning a $1million prize to bring its ultralight innovative wheelchair model to market. The business, based in Scotland, developed the Phoenix i wheelchair via a KTP with academics at the University of the West of Scotland and won the top prize after participating in the three-year Mobility Unlimited Challenge run by Toyota Mobility Foundation and Nesta Challenges.

Launched in 2019, the Management KTP was designed to introduce transformational change within businesses by introducing major improvements to management practice via a partnership with specialist academics. One of the first recipients was a partnership between Glasgow-based glass specialists IPIG in partnership with the University of the West of Scotland to develop and embed an effective R&D capability to improve their product performance and range.

Now Berryman says the tool is coming to the fore in Scotland’s response to COVID-19. ‘It is really building on the strength of partnerships and transformative relationships,’ he says. Hird also sees potential for Management KTP within advanced manufacturing. She says, ‘Often process improvement or product development is the focus of KTP so manufacturing is an ideal application area for KTPs. Management KTPs offer a great opportunity for manufacturing businesses to innovate and to attract top talent into their organisation.’

Collaborative support

Key to the KTN’s approach to its connecting and support offer in Scotland is close partnership working with organisations such as Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, South of Scotland Enterprise, Interface and Reach Innovation Scotland (The Scottish Research Pools and the Scottish Innovation Centres).

It is this ‘Team Scotland’ approach that will continue to see its focus on collaboration at the core of the approach to innovation across the region.

Funding competitions for KTP and mKTP are open throughout the year. For more information and to see the latest KTP jobs, visit the KTP website at www.ktp-uk.org.

CAN DO Innovation Summit

Scotland’s national innovation event, the CAN DO Innovation Summit, will take place online on 3rd February – registration is freeDr Abigail Hird and Matthew Wasley will be hosting two drop-in sessions looking at the KTN Good Application Guide and how to deliver an investment pitch.

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