To find practical evidence of innovation in action, you need look no further than Scotland’s eight Innovation Centres.

Launched in 2012 with the backing of £100 million in funding from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Innovation Centre programme was set up to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship across our key economic sectors, create jobs and grow the economy in partnership with the Scottish Enterprise (SE) and Highlands and Island Enterprise (HIE).

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Each of the eight centres has its own industry focus but their common aim is to help businesses large and small increase the pace of innovation and in turn, help the Scottish economy to prosper, says Dr Stuart Fancey, SFC’s Director of Research and Innovation.

“With leadership from industry, Scotland’s innovation centres are able to draw on research expertise from all of our worldleading universities to understand business ambitions and how best to overcome the challenges that stand in their way.”

Through the link to world-leading research universities and our excellent colleges, industry and our public services benefit from cutting edge R&D, training, secondment opportunities, collaborative working spaces, and the shared access to equipment that the centres offer, he says. “Scotland doesn’t lack entrepreneurs or research brilliance, quite the opposite. What we’ve done with the innovation centre programme, is put in place the infrastructure to ensure the meeting of those minds isn’t left to chance. Businesses all over Scotland are growing and creating jobs with the help of the Innovation Centres.”

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CASE STUDY: THE DATA LAB

Since its launch in 2014, The Data Lab has gone on to establish Scotland as an international data science hub. To date it has provided approximately £2.4m to 66 projects, with the project’s total value reaching £6.3m.

Its second phase of funding up to £13.5m, announced by Richard Lochhead, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education & Science, includes up to £9.5m from SFC, £2.5m from SE, £1m from the Scottish Government’s Digital Directorate, and £0.5m from HIE.

“We’ve built a vibrant, supportive and effective data community across Scotland and with this second round of funding from Scottish Government, we are in a great position to continue to work with local and international communities on data science and artificial intelligence innovation,” says Chief Executive Gillian Docherty.

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With hubs in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, The Data Lab is focused on building relationships locally and delivering a range of activities spanning collaborative innovation, community building, and skills and training.

Examples of these aims in practice include a partnership with the University of Strathclyde and Aggreko, the Scottish-based global provider of modular, mobile power, and heating and cooling solutions.

Seeking the ability to improve its customer service offering through the monitoring, prediction and reaction to potential generator maintenance issues, Aggreko approached The Data Lab, who in turn partnered with the University of Strathclyde. Together they used academic insight and data science support to enhance Aggreko’s Remote Monitoring system, using the latest machine-learning techniques.

Steven Faull, Aggreko’s Head of Software and Analytics at the time of the project said the partnership “transformed our capability as an organisation”.

“Machine learning and advanced analytics have helped us improve reliability, prevent equipment damage and improve customer service. It’s been an invaluable project, and we are very grateful for the support,” he said.

At the same time, The Data Lab is also working to connect world-leading researchers and data scientists with industry and public sector organisations, giving them access to experts through meet-ups, guest lecturers and workshop events, and data science conferences.

In March this year, Scotland hosted DataFest18, a week-long festival of data innovation that reached over 3000 individuals across 50 events in Scotland, and next year’s DataFest 19 has been expanded to a twoweek programme to help foster Scotland’s growing data science community.

The Data Lab is also working with industry to create a pipeline of talented data scientists, equipped with the relevant skills through its internationally recognised MSc programme, industrial doctorates funding, placements and secondments, online learning and Continued Professional Development.

In its first three years, the MSc Data Science programme supported 260 studentships through 17 courses delivered across 11 universities. This programme is expected to grow during the second funding phase to support 665 new data science MScs, ensuring a steady supply of talent to Scottish business.

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CASE STUDY: IBIOIC

Examples of industrial biotechnology – the use of biological materials to produce or process materials – include the processing of plants to produce biofuels or plastics as an alternative to crude oil, algae strains used in cosmetics or chemicals extracted from marine life to replace synthetics.

As an area of research, it is ideally suited to Scotland’s natural resources and infrastructure assets – a point noted by Trade, Investment and Innovation Minister Ivan McKee during his announcement of a £11m funding package for the Industry Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), £7.8m of which will come from SFC, £2.8m from SE, and £0.5m from HIE.

Set up to stimulate the growth of the Scotland’s industrial biotechnology to £900m by 2025, IBioIC is a connector between industry, academia and government, investing in and facilitating access to expertise, equipment and education in order to grow the industry into a powerhouse of Scotland’s economy.

This new cash injection will support IBioIC to continue to drive Scotland’s industrial biotechnology sector forward through a partnership of business and academic knowhow, and will support the Scottish Government’s National Plan for Biotechnology by contributing 500 of the 1400 jobs the plan aims to create.

Over the last five years it has helped to channel over £50m of funding into transformational research projects between Scottish academics and businesses like Edinburghbased biotechnology start-up Carbogenics, which specialises in the production of an innovative product from biodegradable feedstocks which can be used to increase the yield of biogas from anaerobic digestion (AD).

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Through an IBioIC funded collaborative project with experts from the University of Edinburgh, the company gained the confidence to accelerate commercialisation of their product, as well as a basis on which to investigate future scaleup of the technology.

Since completion of this work, Carbogenics won the Emerging Innovation category in the University of Edinburgh’s Inspire Launch Grow 2018 and were regional winners of the Shell Springboard competition. Public funding has also been secured through the Anaerobic Digestion Network and Scottish Enterprise.

The company is now seeking private investment for testing and upscaling production.

Supporting that academic science base is IBioIC’s skills programme, which operates from Higher National Diploma to PhD level to ensure a steady supply of locally trained industrial biotechnologists.

Members also have access to two open access equipment centres, which fill a UK-wide gap in scale up facilities at the technical demonstration scale of 1 – 100 litres, supporting them to scale up industrial processes.

Both initiatives are combined with expert help to guide organisations through every stage of innovation, from the initial idea to piloting, and industry adoption.

Esteemed biologist Professor Dame Anne Glover DBE, who was recently appointed to chair IBioIC’s governing board, says it is wellpositioned to continue delivering significant value for the Scottish Government, businesses and the general public.

“Industrial biotechnology is an enabling technology, which can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the use of fossil fuels, as well as supporting sustainable production, and we look forward to accelerating business growth and research in Scotland with this disruptive technology,” she says.

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Professor Dame Anne Glover DBE

SFC’S ROLE IN SCOTLAND’S FUTURE

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) is helping make Scotland the best place in the world to educate, to research and to innovate.

Investing around £1.8 billion of public money each year, SFC’s funding enables Scotland’s colleges and universities to provide life-changing opportunities for over half a million people.

Its support for university research means every one of Scotland’s 19 universities is able to carry out worldleading research.

Its investment of over £120m to create innovation centres is making exciting things happen between industry and university research. Its work in widening access is bringing colleges and universities together in new ways and providing more people with more routes into learning and skills.