Supporting the lifeblood of Scotland’s economy: Business comment

This year has brought many unforeseen challenges for the global economy, with Covid-19 putting immense pressure on companies of all sizes, including the small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) that are the lifeblood of Scotland’s economy.

According to Scottish Government figures, published in 2018, there were 343,535 SMEs operating across the country. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
According to Scottish Government figures, published in 2018, there were 343,535 SMEs operating across the country. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The effect of the pandemic on SMEs should not be underestimated. According to Scottish Government figures, published in 2018, there were 343,535 SMEs operating across the country, accounting for over 99 per cent of all private sector firms and employing about 60 per cent of the workforce. How such businesses survive and adjust to the coronavirus crisis will have an enormous bearing on future economic and social success in Scotland and it’s vital that we do all we can to support them.

SMEs from all sectors will be central to tackling the 21st century challenges we face, including rising health inequality, climate change, artificial intelligence (AI), big data and tackling chronic disease. The ingenuity of our entrepreneurs and innovators can transform lives now, just as Sir Alexander Fleming did when he discovered penicillin almost a century ago.

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There are some key ways we can support SMEs. Firstly, we must capitalise on Scotland’s strengths in innovation and technology. We can help companies translate advances into more competitive processes, goods and services. Testing and adopting the latest technologies to find new solutions requires the right skills, money and time.

Secondly, we need to develop the social infrastructure between innovation partners, both nationally and internationally to support connections, knowledge exchange and collaborative working across sectors that powers innovation in business.

Thirdly, global expertise and perspectives can help Scottish businesses to raise their game through learning from international best practice. And finally, we need to boost the visibility of Scottish world-leading technology and innovation on an international stage to attract external interest and investment.

Encouraging SMEs to grow through innovation is at the heart of Scotland CAN DO, which sets a vision to make Scotland a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation. The CAN DO innovation Summit is a key component of delivering this vision, being held virtually on 3 February 2021 to conclude VentureFest, Scotland’s festival of discovery and innovation.

This virtual focal point for business will help SMEs adopt new technologies, build progressive working cultures and access the right support for innovation-led recovery and growth.

Businesses need trusted platforms more than ever and events such as the CAN DO Innovation Summit can help SMEs across all sectors make the right connections with academics, investors, entrepreneurs and others. This, in turn, will encourage them to explore new possibilities and ultimately gain a competitive advantage in new markets.

The Summit will aim to stimulate more innovation within growing SMEs by showcasing the stories of global brands such as Pixar, along with more than 20 leading, homegrown businesses, such as Alpha Solway and Oxido.

The event will also profile insight from international speakers, including Lolita Jackson, climate policy and programs advisor to the New York City Mayor’s Office, to help businesses survive and thrive after the global impact of Covid-19.

Innovation will be at the heart of Scotland’s recovery, supporting a strong, collaborative approach to drive sustainable growth.

Tickets for the virtual CAN DO Innovation Summit are free and available at

- Dr Laura Bell of the CAN DO Innovation Summit

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