Colleges can change Scotland’s innovation landscape
Audrey Cumberford, Principle and Chief Executive of West College Scotland blogs about how the Scottish Funding Council and Scottish Government’s £500,000 College Innovation Fund is supporting innovation across Scotland.
Fostering a culture of innovation is a central ambition within the Scottish Government’s strategy for inclusive economic growth and businesses are, increasingly, taking steps to embrace innovation. Until recently, the focus has been on collaboration between businesses and universities, matching industry skills with academic expertise with the aim of inspiring research and development (R&D), creating high-value jobs and growing Scotland’s economy.
More recently it has been recognised that Scotland’s vocational, technical and professional system – Scotland’s colleges – are supporting businesses to develop new skills and techniques alongside new and emerging technologies to support business performance. A key focus going forward is to explore what opportunities exist to increase and add value to innovation activity and realise the full potential that the college sector can contribute to this agenda.
The support of the Scottish Funding Council and Scottish Government, including the £500,000 College Innovation Fund, represents an exciting opportunity for colleges across Scotland to explore how collaboration between colleges, Innovation Centres and industry can be developed further to support innovation in skills and in the business base across each of the college regions.
A national collaborative pilot FUTUREquipped has now been launched. The overall aim of this project is to explore the potential for Scotland’s colleges to support business innovation through collaboration with the Innovation Centre programme. 13 colleges from across Scotland are now working closely with the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre and the Digital Healthcare Institute, supported by DataLab and Censis.
The pilot project provides an opportunity to increase the college value proposition to industry in the priority areas of housing and health needs, focusing on the future skills required to meet greater levels of automation and digitalisation in the delivery of new housing and the integration of digital healthcare technology into homes.
At a local and regional level colleges are also now being supported to develop deeper partnerships with local businesses to support innovation activity such as business process improvements, product developments and the development of new skills alongside new and emerging technologies. Innovation Vouchers and an Innovation Accelerator Fund are available to create the capacity required within colleges to explore these opportunities further.
Colleges across Scotland have a significant reach across the business base in each region, particularly with SMEs. These exciting developments supported by the College Innovation Fund alongside a wide range of existing college-business collaborations will undoubtedly help to enhance the visibility of the role colleges can and should play in the innovation landscape.