A SMART initiative in the Highlands and Islands is set to make it easier for SMEs to collaborate, learn and apply innovation in their businesses, wherever they are based.

The collaborative scheme led by Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) and Inverness College UHI, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, will spur innovation in the construction and manufacturing sectors through its new Make it Smart Hub – one of 12 projects announced by Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop, which is being jointly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Scottish Government.

The hub will support SMEs in construction and manufacturing to learn, apply and share new technologies and processes that improve productivity and drive inclusive growth.

It will make that easier by using multiple channels to collaborate wherever they are based, and to improve productivity and profitability, as well as unlocking new economic opportunities.

The supporting programme will bring a range of benefits to SMEs, including an innovation-driven knowledge exchange portal and access to equipment and expertise.

Stephen Good, CSIC chief executive, said: “As construction and manufacturing restart post-Covid, the sectors will become more focused and reliant on innovative solutions in order to remain competitive and deliver increased value outcomes.

“The timely launch of the Make It Smart project will encourage SMEs across the Highlands and Islands to consider new solutions and adopt an innovative approach to developing construction and manufacturing capabilities, by demonstrating

cutting-edge technology, equipment and processes.”

Georgina Parker, external relations director at Inverness College UHI, said: “Inverness College UHI

and the UHI partnership will have a key role to play in supporting

the region’s economy as it recovers from the Covid-19 health crisis and we are ready to work with all our partners in the sector to provide the support it needs to develop and innovate, as well as upskill and reskill their workforce, in these challenging times.”

Steven Hutcheon, from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, added: “Innovation is fundamental to business growth and diversification. It is also absolutely essential in Scotland’s economic recovery.”