A £9.2m fund to drive business innovation in Scotland, by supporting collaboration between the public and private sectors in developing innovative solutions to societal challenges, was launched today. The Can Do Innovation Challenge Fund offers a single point of contact to promote public sector-led innovation in Scotland.

It provides support and funding for innovation challenges and helps to coordinate access to multiple sources of open innovation assistance, such as Innovate UK’s Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), CivTech and Scottish Enterprise innovation support.

The process to access the challenge fund begins with public sector organisations creating an ‘open innovation challenge’ which explains a complex problem that has no current market-ready solution and needs new ideas to solve the challenge.

Over the past few months, fund team invited Scotland’s public sector to submit their first challenges. Forty-three expressions of interest were received from a variety of public sector organisations and were evaluated competitively.  From those challenges, five have been selected and are being supported.  These are:

  • City of Edinburgh Council: Smart electric vehicle charging solutions
  • Glasgow City Council: Technology enabled Glasgow
  • NHS Highland: Automation and sustainability of pre-cleaning reusable surgical instruments
  • Scottish Water: Effective and reliable point-of-use water treatment for organic rich surface waters
  • South Ayrshire Council: Agile and self-powered public space CCTV cameras

Businesses can find out more and how to apply, here.

The fund was formally launched by Scottish Government Minister for Business, Energy and Innovation Paul Wheelhouse in Edinburgh later today. “Scotland’s Can DO Innovation Challenge Fund addresses one of the biggest barriers to successful innovation among SMEs today – finding that first customer or market. This new £9.2 million fund will provide public sector agencies with the opportunity to find innovative private sector led solutions to challenges they face.

“Scotland’s innovation performance has improved in recent years, but there is more to do to meet our long term ambitions which are to see Scotland as a recognised leader in the development, commercialisation and adoption of cutting edge products and services. As well as our Innovation Action Plan, the First Minister announced £45m increase in R&D grant funding over the next three financial years in the latest Programme for Government.

“Our ambition is clear: to create a culture in Scotland that supports businesses to use innovation to grow, all underpinned by a clear, easy to navigate, well-connected system of information, advice and support.”

Jim Watson, director of innovation and enterprise services at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Increasing business innovation is critical to maintaining Scotland’s global competitiveness.  The fund is a powerful tool for us to help smaller businesses collaborate with large organisations they may not otherwise have access to, and provide funding to develop their ideas.

“We’re making excellent progress in encouraging more Scottish businesses to embrace innovation to open up new global markets, with Scottish companies securing over half of the recent R&D funding contracts with NHS Scotland to drive innovative patient care.

“Research shows that businesses actively innovating are twice as likely to grow and three times more likely to export successfully, and we know from other open innovation schemes that participating businesses increase their sales by around 30%. We want to support many more businesses to embed innovation as part of their business strategy and this new Fund is a fantastic route to help us achieve this.”

Administered by Scottish Enterprise, the fund is a joint project between Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Funding Council with £9.2m to award over the next four years.