With progressive business solutions the cornerstone of Scotland’s post-Covid economic recovery, City of Glasgow College is building upon its pioneering vision with new programmes designed to nurture and create a new generation of innovators. By Andrew Collier

CITY of Glasgow College has long recognised the importance of innovative thinking and is a leader in this field. “It’s part of our lifeblood”, says Stuart McDowall, the college’s Head of Innovation and STEM

“We see it as a key way of taking the college forward and it’s going to play an ever more important role in education.”

The college practises what it preaches: in 2017, it became host to the Scottish Institute of Knowledge Exchange (IKE), the UK’s only professional body for innovators. 

“The body is based in London, and our role means we are now part of an international network of institutes,” Stuart explains. “It’s been set up to lead development and thinking around innovation and it’s supported by leading company executives.”


Stuart McDowall, the college’s Head of Innovation and STEM

Among its roles, the institute invests in innovation standards, benchmarks, carries out research and undertakes horizon scanning.  

The main role City of Glasgow College currently has within its framework is in certified innovation course delivery. 

“We have an introductory programme, Innovation for Practitioners, which is a day-long course for those wanting to build confidence and get up to speed with some of the tools and techniques,” Stuart explains. 

“We then have a Certificate of Professionalism in Innovation Practice. This is a two-day programme aimed at decision makers who really want to try and accelerate and implement innovation. 

“After that, there is our executive programme, called Innovation and Strategy for Business Leaders. 

“This offering is really for those at the top of organisations who want to make sure that the work they do on innovation is aligned with their business strategies.”

Together, the courses represent a skills and training pathway for business. They were classroom-based until March last year when, in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, they were moved online.

“Our online classes have proved successful and we’ve remained very busy, working with a range of public and private sector organisations. We’re now seeing an increased demand for these types of programmes, which is tremendous given innovation is a key discipline for us.”

Stuart believes that this popularity reflects a real desire by companies to innovate. “They need to build capacity, whether that’s through digital transformation or by developing innovation-related competencies.

“There has been a very quick move to the digital world and I think that a lot of organisations didn’t foresee that. 

“They are now looking at where they need to invest to build their capabilities.

“IT teams have changed infrastructures and implemented new software and tools, very quickly, to maintain the delivery of products and services.”

Those coming into the innovation programmes at the college are on a journey; they may have adapted their systems and processes because of the pandemic, but they know that transformative investment will cost money.

“I think many organisations have been compelled into making these changes because of the circumstances, but as things start to settle, they will look further at reinventing their business models.

“As far as we are concerned, we’ve made changes to the platforms and tools that we are using and will continue to identify new ways of working that improves our productivity and efficiency.”

City of Glasgow College was the first institution in the UK to achieve Investor in Innovations status linked to an ISO standard. 

“It’s a self-assessment process looking at six areas of operation and takes in elements such as strategy and alignment - in other words, how well our innovation strategy is set up.”

The college offers certifications in a number of areas including digital maturity assessments; STEM assured; the Certified Innovation Programme; and the Certified Trademark Scheme.

“Essentially, we look at the innovation strategies organisations have set up - do they have an innovation culture? Are they ready to make the changes they need? Do they have the core capabilities and technologies to do that? 

“Do they collect, interpret and use industry foresight and customer awareness to develop new propositions and experiences for users? And what about impact and value?”

The college is aiming to offer more of these certified programmes in future. 

“A company can go through just one, or a number of them. We see value in organisations considering all of them in some shape or form.”

The Innovation and Knowledge Exchange’s CEO, Professor Sa’ad Medhat, is an enthusiast for City of Glasgow College’s role within his own body.

“Economic and societal progress can be driven by the adoption and deployment of innovation in education and the way we do business,” he says. 

“The Scottish IKE Institute being hosted at City of Glasgow College brings an unrivalled combination of educational expertise, and an ambition to create an exciting innovation environment and opportunities for students, entrepreneurs, and businesses in Scotland and beyond.”



College achieves top standards with six best practice awards

CITY of Glasgow College’s credentials as a leader in innovative certification and teaching include validation by Investors in Innovations.

This is a leading-edge standard which gives organisations a practical means to assess, benchmark and validate innovation capability. 

The college is the very first to be awarded best practice status in all six of the framework’s categories, putting it ahead of multinational organisations in the private sector. 

Paul Little, Principal and Chief Executive at the college, says the validation represents an important milestone in its innovation journey and he is extremely pleased that its hard work has been recognised in this way. 


“As the first educational institute in Scotland to be awarded the Investors in Innovation Standard and as host for the Scottish Institute of Innovation and Knowledge Exchange, we were delighted to achieve this prestigious accolade. 

“Innovation is essential to our college as we continue to ensure our offer is responsive and aligned to the future needs, expectations and aspirations of students, industry and wider stakeholders.” 

The validation process benchmarks the college’s approach to innovation and demonstrates its track record in creating social and economic value along with implementing innovative products, services, processes and business models.

It has moved towards an ambitious growth strategy engaging businesses, research and development activities and large-scale sector transformation programmes.

Investors in Innovations uses a multi category framework to offer a 360-degree view of an organisation’s innovation position through the eyes of its customers and stakeholders.