A NEW headline event promoting innovation in Scotland has been hailed as a success after representatives from 800 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) gathered yesterday in the Glasgow Science Centre for the Can Do Innovation Summit.

The initiative stemmed from the UK-branded VentureFest which was brought to Scotland by Glasgow City of Science and Innovation in 2015.

It is aimed specifically at SMEs, which account for 99% of private sector enterprises in Scotland and support around 1.2 million jobs. The summit was a support mechanism, aimed at helping them to collaborate with others, focus on international markets and tackle some of the biggest challenges of our time.

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Dr Susie Mitchell, programme director at Glasgow City of Science and Innovation - the lead delivery agency for VentureFest Scotland, told The National: “This is about creating something that is peer-to-peer led. It’s industry talking to industry about how they’ve developed the culture of innovation, how they’re embracing disruptive technologies to help them grow through innovation as well as their stories about how they access the right support.”

She said there was great support available from centres and agencies, but “navigating the ecosystem” could result in people being overwhelmed.

“Scotland has this thriving rich array of support but actually if you’re an SME and you’re just getting on with business, ‘where do I go and how do I access the right support?’ “What we’ve tried to create is something that explores through storytelling the intersection of cultures of innovation, technological disruption and that access to support.

“We’ve got 800 registered attendees so we reckon for a newly branded summit of innovation, it’s pretty good. We expected 4-500 in year one.”

The Innovation Summit also featured pitches by young people, in conjunction with the St Enoch Centre and Young Scot, aimed at tackling food waste, which Mitchell said was a bigger climate issue than plastics.

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FareShare estimates around 1.9 million tonnes of food is wasted by the UK food industry every year, “It always amazes us how confident these young people are … it was incredible this year because we have run that since 2015 … to create a talent development strand for young people that had a message behind it but was also impactful for them to understand what it is to innovate,” she said. “It isn’t just about a hackathon or tech, it’s about bringing together young people with a range of skills, an inclusion project as well because a lot of those young people don’t get the opportunities for various reasons.

“Food waste is a bigger climate change issue than plastic or pollution and what we try to do is engage young people emotionally in the problem and most of those young people amazingly sign up to this themselves.

“The quality of the pitches, the passion, enthusiasm, watching their confidence build was amazing and providing the stage at a national innovation summit is a really important message to our politicians and businesses that we should be engaging as much possible with wannabe entrepreneurs of the future.”

Dr Laura Bell, project manager for Glasgow City of Science and Innovation, said showcasing various initiatives was one pillar of the event, along with culture and support. She added: “There’s a lot of research that shows SMEs are the backbone of the Scottish economy and it’s looking at how we can enable them to do a better job, be more competitive, and be more productive through innovation.”