“Large companies are make or break partners for startups – as customers, suppliers, collaborators or investors”, say Brad Feld and Ian Hathway in their new book The Startup Community Way.

In Scotland, we love a silo. Start-ups over there, scale-ups in that corner, public sector, don’t touch, you over there, corporates over there, Universities you can play in that corner. Layer on that the sectoral silos, the tech silo, oil and gas, tourism, food and drink – we love to separate it all up and pop it into a neat pigeonhole. Each has its own silo, its own tribe.The dislocation triggered by Covid will only further exaggerate it. It is hard to dismantle a silo from your bedroom.

Yet, for Scotland plc to flourish we need off the scale collaboration across all boundaries. No silos. Innovation is born from the rubbing together of different ideas, perspectives. Our corporates and professional firms have an underappreciated role.There are those who have stepped up, led by a champion, Bob Hair at Cazenove, Alison Rose and Gordon Merrylees at Royal Bank of Scotland, Debjani Raffan at UBS, Sandy Manson and Adam Hardie at Johnston Carmichael.

There are many ways leaders and their teams with a corporate can play their part. An obvious and important way is to sponsor programmes, share their offices, host events – online or offline. This is great, but they can go much further and have little to lose. Three suggestions:

Share your expertise and networks. Corporates have deep experience in accessing and delivering into international markets, in mergers and acquisitions and in managing complex financial risk. Our corporates can encourage their teams to engage and share their insight with the entrepreneurial community. This could be embedded in annual incentives and be part of their learning and development programme. For example, Paul Ross, MD of Malt Whiskies at Edrington recently became chair of the fast growing pizza oven manufacturer, Ooni. It was serendipity, not design, that brought them together. With a clearer intent, many more of these connections could be made.

Open up your supply chains. The SIS Social Enterprise Retail Academy is primed to kick off with its 4th cohort in partnership with Asda. Asda not only sponsor the programme, they offer a route on to their shelves and other major retailers. Through the programme social enterprises like Brewgooder and Heroes Drinks now have a prized Asda shelf listing. Ultimately, funding and investment is important but the only way a firm will fulfil its potential is by attracting paying customers.

Absorb the entrepreneurial spirit. It is not all one-way. Corporates too are facing massive market disruption whether it is driven by Covid, the fourth industrial revolution, a shift in their purpose from the pursuit of shareholder value to include net zero and inclusivity.

By rubbing shoulders with start-ups, scale-ups, social enterprises they can find inspiration and look at old problems in new ways. They can rekindle their own founding entrepreneurial spirit as every corporate was once a startup. Their leaders and teams need to think, act and lead in an entrepreneurial way and require new skills and a different mindset to do so. They can nurture a culture of intrapreneurship essential to navigating the choppy seas ahead.

Corporates are a vital, under-appreciated, asset in the entrepreneurial fabric of our economy. They are our ambassadors abroad, talent magnets at home, a depository of know-how and connections. We must do more to break down the clannish silos and welcome them in, to celebrate those who help. Corporates please step forward.

Sandy Kennedy is CEO of the Entrepreneurial Scotland Foundation