Scotland’s universities are amongst the best in the world. More feature in top global rankings per head of population that almost any other country. The research they do is genuinely world-leading, across many of the sectors of the future.

Edinburgh is one of Europe’s leading digital and AI hubs. Likewise Glasgow’s excellence in precision medicine and quantum technology and Dundee’s in drug discovery. Scotland also excels in industrial biotechnology, sensors, robotics and aquaculture amongst others.

So far, so good. But to build a modern economy, rather than just a few pockets of excellence in universities, that technology needs to find its way out of the research labs and into factories. To effectively solve the big problems facing humanity - in health, the climate, transport or food security - it needs businesses developing the products and services that take the clever inventions and make them widely accessible.

And to build a modern economy, with the high-paying jobs politicians love to talk about, we need to do as much of that as possible in Scotland. We have unfortunately become world leaders over the decades in letting someone else reap the industrial benefits of our great inventions.

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The countries that excel at turning research excellence into innovation and industry will be the success stories of the 21st century, in the same way as the countries that figured out how to industrialise the technologies of the 19th century led the way - building the ships, trains and manufactured products the world needed.

After many decades of struggling to do this right there was light at the end of the tunnel. A real focus was beginning to pay dividends with start-up and spin-out businesses from our universities starting to proliferate, and international entrepreneurs with promising technologies seeing Scotland as the place to come and base themselves to be part of dynamic industrial clusters close to research excellence. The biggest factor driving Scotland’s good performance in attracting international businesses - consistently the best in the UK outside of London - has been access to technology and skills.

The Scottish Government’s recent Innovation Strategy sought to build on that success. Recognising challenges remain in attracting investment capital to enable those Scottish start-up businesses to grow, and hire, at scale, but also celebrating those dynamic innovation eco-systems with our network of Innovation Centres at the heart of it.

Those centres tackle the industrialisation challenge head on. Located in universities, their role is specifically to work with Scottish businesses to make that technology available to them, building networks and clusters around those industries and making sure Scotland can punch at, or above, its weight. That is a long slow process. To deliver results takes time. So 10 years after their creation the Innovation Centres were starting to bear fruit.

For once it looked like there was a coherent, joined-up approach to identifying where Scotland had genuine world leading capabilities and then working to ensure we captured the economic benefits that flowed from that.

But much of that progress, unfortunately, looks set to unravel.

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The Innovation Centres funding model uses relatively small amounts of public sector investment to leverage in larger amounts of money from businesses. That core Government support is a necessary part of the mix. Not just financially but also for the very important signal it sends that government understands technology and innovation and is a willing partner with industry to accelerate its development. The return on investment is huge. Public sector funding challenges will only be fixed by increasing the tax base – creating vastly more high-paying jobs. And that will only happen if we are able to industrialise those technologies with rapidly growing Scottish businesses at their heart.

For some reason the decisions on the future of Innovation Centres was entrusted to a body, the Scottish Funding Council, whose "day job" is to fund universities, rather than to the enterprise agencies responsible for building our future economy. The result has been a drying up of support for the Innovation Centres - with up to half of them at real risk of closing. Those technologies hailed in that Government Innovation Strategy as being core to Scotland’s economic future - and where we genuinely lead the world -about to have a key ingredient driving that success taken out of the mix. A clear example of lack of joined-up thinking in government with the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.

Hopefully sense will prevail and our Innovation Centres will stay in place and reap the economic rewards of the hard work over the last decade.

Or this might go down as another example of one of Scotland’s other core skills:  snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Ivan McKee is an MSP and former Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise