Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is launching a campaign – ‘HIE time to innovate’ #HIEtime –  to provide companies with the tools to get their creative visions off the ground.

Starting with 24-hours dedicated to innovation, local businesses will have access to funding, a free 24-hour hotline, and opportunities to book one-to-one consultations with innovation experts. The initiative will also roll out a number of campaign activities, ranging from digital content provided by online experts, peer influencers, and industry leaders, to ‘hyper-localised’ events delivering networking opportunities to local communities.

The announcement follows news that HIE’s innovation funding has already increased turnover for local organisations by £2.2m and is aiming to generate £1.4m more.

One of HIE’s aims is to continue to realise Scotland’s commercial ambitions, “where innovation is a fundamental driver of long-term competitiveness and lies at the heart of the country’s economic strategy”.  In the past two years, HIE’s innovation team has supported 500-plus local organisations and awarded 30 small business grants, totalling more than £270,000.

As a result of the small injection of funding, HIE has directly increased employment by almost 80. The ‘HIE time to innovate’ #HIEtime campaign aims to build on these successes by extending the support, to the as yet untapped pool of businesses that could benefit from innovation.’

Gillian Galloway, HIE’s head of innovation is focused on ensuring innovation makes a positive impact for more businesses in Scotland’s Highlands and Islands: “It’s crucial for companies to embrace innovation if they want to remain competitive in their market.

“Innovation can take many shapes and forms. From the big eureka moments like Airbnb, to a smart technology like Amazon Alexa or something on the scale of Laggan Dam’s hydro power.

“However, some of the best innovations can come from small usability changes to existing products, new ways to deliver services to customers or improving internal processes. Whilst these changes may appear relatively small the overall impact they can have can be huge.”

For example, Friendly Access was established in 2014 to help make a positive impact on accessibility for people living with hidden disabilities or mental health conditions across Scotland. Friendly Access is the leader in a co-creation with the School of Simulation at The Glasgow School of Art and Crag3D which is funded under the European Social Fund and Social Innovation Fund.

“Having experienced the restrictions that those living with disabilities encounter first hand within my own family, I became passionate and driven to look at ways of making things right,” said Glyn Morris, chief executive of Friendly Access. Through amazing virtual reality technology, our team has been able to develop an innovative product that supports individuals living with disabilities.

“We created an app that takes users on a journey through a virtual airport, from check-in to boarding, with control of the variables and crowd environments – which are hyper sensitive settings for many people. The sequence assists in desensitising people with learning difficulties and disabilities to stimulating environments like busy airports and train stations.

“When we first came up with the idea four years ago, we approached the Highlands and Islands Enterprise to tap into their knowledge of innovating and the technology industry. After telling them our story and vision for Friendly Access, we were signed there and then as an account managed business.

“The support and knowledge share from HIE has been incomparable and has enabled us continue to better our approach and ways of working.  At Friendly Access we’re constantly looking at barriers and finding solutions for these and so innovation has and always will remain the foundation of our business model.”

Gillian Galloway added: “We have the right team of people to provide solid innovation advice, deconstructing the process into simple to apply tips.  We offer year-round opportunities for funding and hope that our initiative will get more businesses interested and eager to make positive changes.

“We know that time can be a key challenge for companies exploring innovation, with concerns about the effort involved proving worthwhile.  Our ‘HIE time to innovate’ #HIEtime campaign aims to address these concerns.

“International best practice indicates that all businesses can benefit from innovation support, regardless of their size, sector or location. Being innovative can ultimately make your business more profitable so it makes sense for companies to integrate this into their workings.”

The campaign will be underpinned by HIE’s:

  • Funding | For businesses working in the Highlands and Islands, with no more than 250 employers, up to £15,000 of funding can be offered through HIE’s Small Innovation Grant Scheme.
  • Expert Advice | HIE’s Innovation Enquiry Service provides access to experienced advisors who can help decide on the best course of action for businesses to move their project forward.
  • Support | Through HIE’s Innovation Clinics, its team of innovation specialists offer group and one-to-one sessions to businesses.
  • Direction | For further support HIE provides 1-2 days of Specialist Innovation Support with skilled consultants to provide detailed strategy assistance.

Businesses looking to access HIE’s innovation services can visit here. Also today, until midnight, call 0300 013 5041 for information on funding and innovation resources available from HIE. And next week, from 19 to 23 February, one-on-one expert consultations are available: call 0300 013 5041.