COMPANIES and public sector organisations have the potential to make big savings, improve services and change lives by harnessing the ideas of their own employees.

That was a key theme to emerge from Scotland’s first ever conference dedicated to the growing phenomenon of intrapreneurship, which took place at 200 SVS in Glasgow yesterday.

The Herald Intrapreneurial Conference 2018 was held in association with CivTech Scotland, the Scottish Government organisation which brings public and private sector bodies together to solve problems, develop new products and deliver more efficient services. It was sponsored by Scottish Health Innovations Limited (SHIL), 200 SVS and The Lens, an intrapreneurship programme which can help leaders develop ideas which originate within their own organisations, and featured a speech from the chief executive of Entrepreneurial Scotland, Sandy Kennedy.

The event heard from a range of speakers who outlined the steps being taken by their organisations to foster and implement innovative ideas, and highlighted some of the traditional barriers which have to be overcome to encourage more intrapreneurship.

Lisa Dunlop, OD and change manager at Stirling Council, said there is “no doubt local authorities have a number of additional challenges” to address to change culture and encourage innovation.

That is partly down to traditional, hierarchical ways of working, she said, though the level of public scrutiny councils face can also be barrier to change.

But Ms Dunlop said the council, through its work with CivTech and The Lens, is beginning to change. One innovation she highlighted was suggested by an employee in the council’s cemetery service, who came up with an idea to eradicate funeral poverty.

It is ultimately hoped the model, which she said has reduced the average funeral cost by more than half, without any extra investment from the council, could be rolled out across Scotland.

“As a business model it makes sense, but it could actually have a massive social impact in the Stirling area,” Ms Dunlop said.

She added: “Everybody knows the financial challenges ahead for local authorities, so that us our driver.

“What we need to do is make sure we do not go down the easy route [by] cutting services – that’s the easy thing to do.

“We can completely transform the way that we do things by listening to our employees and citizens. We can actually do a better job by doing things more efficiently.”

Maria McGill, chief executive of CHAS (Children’s Hospice Association) highlighted the impact made by a change suggested by a gardener and a volunteer at the charity’s Robin House – a “home from home” for families in Balloch.

Working in partnership with The Lens, the charity has invested in a comfortable portacabin in the seven-acre grounds where its volunteers can have something to eat and drink – without disturbing life at the house.

Ms McGill said: “It helps our volunteers who have put in a day’s hard work feel valued, wanted, loved and part of our organisation.”

Further examples of internal innovation were highlighted by Angela Harkness of the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank through its work with SHIL, of which it is a shareholder.

These include the Caledonian Technique, which has been designed to enhance the recovery of patients who have undergone hip and knee replacement surgery.

Ms Harkness said the technique, inspired by a development in Denmark, led the hospital to have its first “24-hour hip”, which saw the patient walking again on the same day the surgery took place.

Before then, patients would typically stay in hospital for seven to nine days.

Those treated using the technique are not put under general anaesthetic for operations, which take place under an epidural.

Ms Harkness said: “We have reduced patient time in hospital [and] created massive cost efficiencies, not only in Scotland but around the world.”

The hospital has also set up a “Dragons’ Den” system through which members of staff can pitch for funding from the hospital and SHIL for their innovations.

Alexander Holt, who heads the CivTech programme for the Scottish Government, highlighted some of the barriers which can sometimes prevent change from taking place within organisations.

He said: “Where you have vested interests, and people who have paid a lot of money developing something, whatever that may be, that will be defended. It takes a lot of courage to stop something.”

Mr Holt added: “In business globally, the challenge that innovators have is getting past the proof of concept stage [and] into widespread adoption.

“And if we don’t do it as a country, with the collaboration of public [and] private sector, academia, investors, citizen groups, then somebody else will. If we don’t do it talent and the opportunities will go elsewhere.”

Companies such as IBM and Clydesdale Bank also provided speakers to the event.

Sandy Kennedy at Entrepreneurial Scotland said: “We believe that Scotland can become the most entrepreneurial society in the world, and that means being a leading light in supporting intrapreneurship. We were delighted to share stories from intrapreneurial leaders with others curious about changing their culture and creating more value for their organisations.”

Graham Watson, executive chairman of SHIL, said: “SHIL are proud to have supported Scotland’s first Intrapreneurial Conference, sharing our experience of supporting innovation and intrapreneurialism across NHS Scotland.

“The success of products and spin out companies originating from NHS Scotland is testament to the talent and commitment of Scotland’s health professionals and endorses the important role of SHIL in bringing their ideas to life.”

Steven McCreadie, chief executive of The Lens, said: “Scotland’s first ever intrapreneurship conference was a huge success and we, at The Lens, look forward to continuing to building a community of intrapreneurs off the back of it.”

A spokesperson for 200 SVS said: “We’ve thoroughly enjoyed hosting and sponsoring the first ever Intrapreneurial Conference in Scotland.”