Mallard, Mountain, Stonebridge and Barelle: a quartet of explorers, passionate about their science, driven by a desire to help our society. Yet they also offer insights into how to rebuild Scotland’s economy post-pandemic.

Scotland is rightly proud of its discoveries. In life sciences, this includes penicillin, anaesthesia and antibiotics. As a country, we have invested billions in university research. Scotland consistently appears in the upper quartile in higher education R&D spending (HERD). Pure research is important – the Covid vaccine development has shown today’s scientists do indeed “stand on the shoulders of giants”. Yet, sadly, we have a poor record in turning this scientific excellence and investment into scaled businesses and jobs.

Professor John Mallard, the University of Aberdeen physicist, passed away in February at the age of 94. He should be a household name. He played a crucial role in the development of two of the world’s most important medical technologies – the MRI and Positron Emission Tomography (PET). Professor Mallard led the team at the University of Aberdeen who built the first functioning full body MRI, including plumbers’ copper pipes and a large tube from a local children’s playground. A remarkable, transformative entrepreneurial endeavour. Yet, sadly, Scotland’s has few jobs and no scaled businesses to show for it.

Staying in Aberdeen, in 2007 to great fanfare the US pharma firm Wyeth acquired Haptogen, a spin-out from the university. In parallel, Scottish Enterprise committed to invest £17.5 million in a collaboration with Wyeth. I admire the ambition yet Wyeth itself was acquired by Pfizer in 2011 and the facilities in Scotland were closed. Sadly, Scotland has few jobs to show for the investment.

There are seeds of hope. Dr Caroline Barelle led teams for Wyeth then Pfizer. She had the courage to step out of the corporate world to lead a start-up and Elasmogen was born in 2016. In January, Elasmogen announced a significant breakthrough in its biologics platform capability to stop the spread of Covid-19 infections. Elasmogen is a scaling business and creating jobs.

Rod Mountain is a renowned ENT surgeon based at Ninewells in Dundee. He wants to unlock the massive potential to use design, innovation, entrepreneurship, and cross-sector collaboration to transform patient care – delivering for society and creating jobs in the process.

Take the invention by Professor Peter Stonebridge of the SARUS-CPR hood which could revoutionise the resuscitation process for first responders. Over 100 years, there has been little innovation in non-hospital based resuscitation – mouth to mouth and the handheld pump, that’s it. Both methods are deemed unsafe in these Covid times, putting lives at risk. Mountain is leading an unlikely private-public sector collaboration between NHS Tayside and the outdoor clothing manufacturer Keela, supported by SHIL. Together, they have turned Stonebridge’s invention into a groundbreaking product using cutting-edge fabrics and gluing techniques. It could save lives and create vital jobs.

What are the insights? Don’t hide our scientific breakthroughs in the lab – let them breathe, let entrepreneurs and investors share the journey with scientists and academics. More translational work and scale the Converge programme.

Double down on what Professor Sir Jim McDonald terms “triple helix” projects binding industry, academia and Government in close collaboration with job creation as the goal.

Innovate Government and corporate procurement to embrace our fast-paced, cash-poor, entrepreneurial firms.

As a nation, champion, celebrate the explorers, the innovators, the entrepreneurs who are driven to make a difference. We need them more than ever.

Sandy Kennedy is chief executive of the Entrepreneurial Scotland Foundation