With the advent of Global Entrepreneurship Week, it is an opportunity for us to celebrate the innovators, the grassroots risk takers who drive the economy, and those who invest in communities with their pioneering ideas.

Over the past year and a half, entrepreneurs have had to overcome huge uncertainty and difficult conditions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it’s difficult to measure the impact of that on entrepreneurism. Nevertheless, forward-thinking Scots have remained strong and resilient and are now able to tentatively look forward to more encouraging conditions.

Global Entrepreneurship Week is also a chance to spotlight the ingenuity of their perhaps lesser-known counterparts – the intrapreneur – those within organisations who think boldly and differently to create ideas that enhance the immediate working environment around them, in turn benefitting its wider aspirations and outlook.

Central to the work of Scottish Health Innovations Ltd (SHIL) is uncovering transformational ideas internally from a wealth of talented health and social care professionals across Scotland, while providing clear routes of national support to encourage, develop, and bring these ideas to market in investor/licensee ready form.

We call the workforce health and social care professionals, but equally they are everyday intrapreneurs, even if they do not necessarily think of themselves that way. The work they do is crucial in evolving our health service to meet new patterns of care, increased demand, and technological advances to deliver a modern, innovative, and sustainable service for the future.

For SHIL, it’s about engaging the workforce to deliver transformational change, finding solutions to issues, and turning ideas into action. That focus has been crucial during the pandemic, with ideas having to evolve quickly into usage in order to meet unexpected need.

With that onus on transformative disruption in mind, SHIL has issued a succession of innovation calls – inspiring intrapreneurship and creating a strong pipeline of exciting NHS ingenuity – most recently in the areas of frailty and sustainability, the latter chiming with the aims of the Cop26 conference currently being held in Glasgow. Often in the past, SHIL has successfully commercialised a range of products and spin-out companies, working with health and social care professionals across the spectrum of disease and medical backgrounds to support new ways of improving patient care.

The best ideas have inspired spin-out companies such as Aurum Biosciences, which is developing novel oxygen carriers and proprietary software for use with MRI, surgical lighting innovators Clear Surgical, and products such as the SCRAM portfolio, a solution to emergency airway management and tracheal intubation.

Of course, few areas have remained untouched by Covid-19, and intrapreneurship has been no different.

A significant element of Global Entrepreneurship Week this year must therefore be based around a discourse of adapting and repositioning the economy for recovery as we look to build back better from the pandemic. Intrapreneurs, as much as entrepreneurs, are vital to that, but equally they require nurturing and encouragement in order to create jobs, inclusive economic growth and help revitalise Scottish communities.

Underpinning that effort, SHIL’s pivotal building blocks are firstly harnessing the raw talent and commitment of staff across NHS Scotland, before providing a systematic approach to innovation that supports more productive, scaleable and sustainable ideas.

When that inspired idea is sparked, SHIL is ready to provide guidance and encouragement at each stage of the journey.

Naturally, we recognise that finding time to innovate amongst clinical or personal commitments can be challenging, but SHIL helps to simplify the complexities of supporting innovation or intrapreneurism by providing access to resources such as selection criteria to refine ideas, an innovation pathway which sets out the national process, and taking care of day-to-day project management.

This sort of collective effort coupled with the ability to navigate regulatory complexities across the whole system is needed to deliver the required step-changes to drive scaleable innovation forward.

During this Global Entrepreneurship Week, and perhaps more than any other before it, we want to take the opportunity to salute our NHS intrapreneurs’ skills, energy, and drive. You are truly the lifeblood of NHS Scotland’s innovation-led future.