Social entrepreneurs and innovators are being invited to apply for grants up to £33,000 to support projects which use online sharing technology to deliver clean energy and transport, and support vulnerable consumers and disadvantaged communities.

The £172,000 ShareLab Scotland  scheme will be run by Nesta, the UK innovation foundation. It will help identify and support projects that use online matching to help individuals and communities make better use of local resources, and that will contribute to Scotland’s vision of a fairer, more socially responsible collaborative economy.

Individuals, social enterprises, charities and community groups are invited to apply for the grants, which will be awarded by a panel of experts from the Scottish Government and Nesta later this year.

Establishing the fund is one of a range of actions in response to the recommendations from the Expert Advisory Panel Report on Collaborative Economy, which will be published shortly, said the Scottish Government.

When the panel was established, it was challenged to identify how Scotland could maximise the benefits of a collaborative economy.  Announcing ShareLab Scotland at Nesta’s FutureFest event in London, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Government believes that innovation is central to our future, and in recent years I have made promoting innovation a major focus of our economic policy.

“However, governments have to ensure that our social policies respond to the technological and economic changes that we promote. We can’t just promote innovation in our economic policy – we also have to adopt innovation in our social policies.

“The collaborative economy brings together individuals and communities in new and innovative ways. There is huge opportunity for Scotland in this area, particularly given some of our geographic challenges and the potential benefits it can bring for tourism and transport in more remote areas.

“To help achieve this, I am pleased to launch ShareLab Scotland. This £172,000 fund will help new partnerships benefit both our societies and the economy.

“I am grateful for the commitment and energy shown by the panel in delivering its wide-ranging remit. As the Scottish Government takes forward actions in response to the Panel’s recommendations, I ask all stakeholders to continue to work together to make this happen.”

Geoff Mulgan, Nesta’s chief executive, added: “Digital platforms have transformed how we shop and travel, creating vast global companies along the way.

“We believe that similar technologies can help deal with many of our social challenges too, and with this fund – a partnership with the Scottish Government – we hope to find great examples that can also be more controlled by local communities.

“Over the next few months Nesta’s ShareLab Scotland wants to hear from communities, start-ups and innovators of all kinds with exciting ideas about how to use collaborative digital platforms to address social needs.”