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By collaborating on projects, companies share risk – and reward.


By responding to a challenge, successful companies have the opportunity to secure a large customer for their idea or technology which could, potentially, lead to significant export opportunities and ultimately significant growth opportunities for the SME.

Jillian Moffat, head of open innovation, Scottish Enterprise

“Open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology”.

So reads the definition of open innovation, a phrase coined by Dr Henry Chesborough, professor at the University of California.

We’re bringing a series of open innovation challenges to Scotland’s SME community. Small businesses will be given the opportunity to do business with large corporations – from NHS Scotland, Doosan Babock, Stena Line to Scottish Power Networks – helping them to tackle issues facing their businesses.

Jillian Moffat, head of open innovation at Scottish Enterprise, explains how the programme will help SMEs to develop, innovate, grow and internationalise.

What does open innovation really mean?

“Open innovation has been around for a very long time. Basically, it’s about looking outwith the boundaries of your organisation and exploring the potential beyond your own R&D capabilities and existing supply chain. It’s about identifying and addressing future challenges with the aid of more agile partners along with finding innovative solutions for existing underutilised IP within the R&D department that could have a positive impact on your bottom line” says Jillian.

“It’s not about outsourcing the R&D department, it’s about being open to the possibility that some of the smartest people may work for someone else and it’s about finding a way to access the right expertise for your business from around the world“ she says.

“Scotland has long been recognised globally as an innovative country, from the discovery of penicillin in the 1920’s to the development of the world’s first multi-articulated hand. Our research-driven universities regularly feature in global league tables. However, we also face significant challenges. 

How are we encouraging companies to innovate? 

Our challenge is the aim to support some 7000 more companies to become ‘Innovation Active’ by the year 2020. And in the spirit of innovation within Scotland, we aim to do this in collaboration with the companies that are already significantly investing in R&D in Scotland.

We're working with a large number of successful companies but we want to hear from others.

We want to spark the conversation around open innovation. We're excited about the prospects of crowd-sourcing Scotland’s capabilities to respond to some of the key challenges in areas such as health and social care, energy, financial services and public services - both within Scotland and beyond.

How can innovation help you get ahead?

Innovation can have a powerful and transformational effect on businesses.

“Open innovation is a cultural shift” reminds Jillian. “We are asking Scottish-based organisations to open their eyes to the art of the possible.”

It's also an increasingly important way for businesses to set themselves ahead of their competition - with more and more businesses collaborating with other companies and academic institutions to take clear strides in expanding their market share or moving into new industries.

"When we started to explore organisations involved in the growing phenomenon of open innovation, we found that world-leading companies like Proctor & Gamble have been involved in these practices for many years. In fact, a whopping 50% of all of P&G’s new products are borne out of open innovation practices –staggering, when you think about it.”

What’s the opportunity for SMEs?

Who are we working with?

  • Doosan Babcock
  • Stena Line
  • Scottish Power Networks
  • NCR
  • Weir Group
  • Subsea 7

For SMEs, these challenges can open up a world of opportunity.

Jillian agrees. “Smaller companies tend to work much faster than large organisations, decision-making is often much quicker, making them significantly more agile. Leading large companies recognise this and through a commitment to open innovation smaller companies are able to gain access to and support global companies to develop solutions within their supply chains.

“By responding to a challenge, successful companies have the opportunity to secure a large customer for their idea or technology which could, potentially, lead to significant export opportunities and ultimately significant growth opportunities for the SME.”

Alongside public and private sector partners we are anticipating that over the next few years we will generate up to 150 new projects that will have the potential to generate up to £50 million of additional R&D expenditure within Scotland.

Who is involved?

Who are we working with?

  • Raytheon
  • City of Edinburgh Council, Glasgow City Council
  • NHS Health & Social Care
  • Devro
  • RBS
  • Aker Solutions

“Scottish Enterprise are working alongside multiple partners and agencies including Strathclyde University, Subsea 7, Edinburgh & Glasgow City Council, Scottish Power, NHS Scotland, Stena Line and many other world-class organisations to help them deliver ambitious plans in areas such as the provision of public services in health and social care, technology, manufacturing, engineering and transportation.” 

What does the programme involve?

“We have developed a four-year programme focused exclusively on stimulating demand for open innovation solutions from across Scotland’s diverse business community. The companies and organisations involved represent many of the key industries that contribute towards Scotland’s economic success."

The organisations will meet regularly, facilitated by Strathclyde University (with the support of Scottish Enterprise), to share their ideas and experience. Many of the companies have already committed to working together to identify common themes across their respective industries such as the insatiable demand from industry to identify technological solutions. It’s proving to be a very powerful forum.”

By working with an academic partner, the University of Strathclyde, we are committed to supporting the companies over the next two years and will create a shared learnings and experiences document to be disseminated to the wider business community.

How can you use the funding?

We offer a wealth of support for innovation. Many companies have taken advantage our experienced, expert innovation specialists and they can offer tailored support across a number of areas from product design, proof of concept, testing and market launch.

"Scottish Enterprise offers Seek and Solve funding support," says Jillian.

"If your project is eligible and approved, then our funding can cover up to 45% of the costs towards collaborative projects between SMEs and large companies. We anticipate that many of the companies involved in our open innovation programme will benefit from this additional support.

"A number of the companies/organisations have been very ambitious. We're planning to support these organisations, delivering many opportunities for Scottish SMEs to engage with large companies seeking solutions to their challenges.”

All of the challenges will be appearing on both our websites and company websites. Follow us on twitter @scotent #openscotland to be kept up to date.

Are you interested in taking the next step?

Check out the active challenges