Last week was great for me, and I feel so positive about the future of my city. My PhD student was awarded his PhD, our spin-out happened, I got a new EU grant, we ran a successful conference event, and so many other good things, so I’m feeling so positive about the future. Things really seem to be snowballing within Scotland, and there is a great feeling of achievement and ambition in the air. I reckon too that we have an amazing opportunity over the next year for every aspect of Scottish society to work together and build a new nation for the next generation – no matter what happens.
I marvel at the people who built the New Town in Edinburgh, and of the scholars who made the city the focus of attention of the whole world. For various reasons we seem to have lost that vision and leadership over the centuries, and now is the time for our leaders to bring it back again, especially for the most beautiful and perfect city in the World – Edinburgh. As someone who has not even made up my mind on how to vote on the referendum (like most other people), I have no interest in making any sort of political statement or influencing anyone in the way that they might vote, but I do want to highlight that something is changing in Scottish Society. There is now a confidence within our businesses and in our cities, which will allow us to take our place on a national stage, and it is a stage which increasingly does not see any national boundaries, or national divides.
I must say I am completely apolitical, and have no interest in party politics, but I do spot an opportunity in the coming year for the business community to work together more closely with a range of partners, and for us to show leadership in showing the way forward. So, for me, it doesn’t matter which way the referendum actually goes, but what I would like to see is a resurgence of leadership in Scotland, and one which is built on enterprise and innovation.
Innovation, Scholarship, Health and Enterprise
For too long we have lost the brightest and best to other nations in the World, but times are changing … and people want to come here, and to become the business leaders of the future. When I first started in academia, most of my graduates left to go down south, as there wasn’t enough jobs for them in Scotland, but things have completely turned around, where we get many companies approaching us for graduates to fill the many positions in their organisations. Also the change is the growth around SMEs, where businesses are growing with great ambitions to tackle major problems, in a way that many large companies would struggle with. With companies such as miiCard and Sitekit addressing federated identity and personal health records, respectively, we are now seeing companies basing themselves here, and focusing on an international market.
I have included Scholarship alongside Innovation and Enterprise in the title of this section, as academia must provide a strong foundation for Innovation and Enterprise to flourish, and academia must try and take every advantage it must to the nation. With academic you have long term stability, which is necessary for glitches in the economy, and provide an enabler to identify the vision for the development into new areas. Isn’t it amazing that a university can gain a leadership across the World within a new area within just a few years. Few businesses would have this opportunity, and it is important that academia in Scotland, focus on the range of income generation activities, from new programmes which focus on up-and-coming areas – such as cybercrime – to bidding for European funding. It is the forthcoming EU-funded Horizon 2020, that Scotland’s universities must show leadership in building the teams to support SMEs in Scotland to be part of collaborative networks, as previous funding has typically gone to academia and large-industry, and you have to wonder whether they can truly provide the focus to actually sustain enterprise, and seek new areas for development. Personally I love working with SMEs, as they always see great benefit when teaming up with collaborators, where large organisations often have internal networks to overcome any weaknesses.
And for Health? Well there’s real hope that the NHS is starting to look after SMEs, and start to collaborate with them, in order to foster new products for an international market. With the TSB funded DALLAS Living It Up community in Scotland we see the seed for a vision the future for health care, where every citizen feels part of it, and is able to contribute. Again the Horizon 2020, SMEs in health care, must stand-up in Scotland, and be part of this new world of health care, and be part of the collaborative networks. It is the drive and focus of SMEs that are required to take-forward health care, and abandoned IT programmes from large industry and the Government have been shown not to work.
Maybe I’m just a bit more connected than I used to be, but I really feel that there is much more collaboration and vibrancy about the current state of the business community in Scotland. It is one that seems to be built across both the public and the private sector, and there seems to be a “let’s just get on with it” attitude, which is an attitude that Scots often used when they went abroad. For me, it is here now, and, no matter how the referendum goes, we must all play our part and support this nation, and it’s great cities to thrive and contribute to society. Scotland is famed for it’s tolerance – my own city has one on the highest acceptance levels that incomers make a significant impact on our communities – it’s hard work ethic, and for its enterprise. I always loved the reason that Edinburgh was so beautiful and missed the decimation of the 1970s … that its city councilors liked to talk but never actually done anything (yes … they was plans for a motorway along the Meadows … and down the High Street) … but now is the time for our leaders in the cities to support business development, and allow them to thrive, without throwing rocks in their way, or even sitting back and not doing anything. The growth of Edinburgh Airport must be an important element in this support, and without a forward looking approach, with direct links for business travel, businesses may see the overhead of traveling through other airports as a major cost.
Whereas, in the past, business would place themselves near rivers, to get access to ports, or beside energy supplies … increasingly they are basing their operations on two things … access to expertise and the opportunity to attract and keep the best. For this, Scotland needs to be seen as the place to attract and keep graduates, as they will become the leaders of the future. As a nation that should have punched above our weight, we can on a new World stage, based on the new industries of the future, where innovation and enterprise, as the standard Scottish trait identities, are the drivers. This time we have to keep our own intellectual capital, and attract others to come and live here.