SCOTLAND faces the risk of an innovation drought if Westminster ditches a European funding programme, a government minister has warned. 

Employment Minister Richard Lochhead has warned Scottish research projects - which have previously brought forward life-changing help for dementia patients among other innovations - face being left with no cash if the UK Government fails to commit to funding European collaborations. 

He said innovative projects which have benefited from £72.5 million of European Territorial Co-operation (ETC) grants may be unable to continue.

Lochhead has written to Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove to call for Westminster funding in ETC programmes, which are due to end in 2023.

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Gove has been urged to announce funding sources for an additional four years.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), worth £2.6 billion to improve upon EU structural funds, had given early indications that the schemes would be supported, Lochhead said.

However, he said “little mention” of it in future correspondence has caused concern.

The funding previously helped deliver a joint scheme by Stirling University, NHS Highland and NHS Western Isles for rural dementia patients to use video technology to stay in their own homes rather than go into residential care.

It also funded the development of tools powered by zero-emissions hydrogen.

Lochhead outlined concern that the shared prosperity funding publication indicated there was “regrettably no funding, nor desire, to develop and continue the fruitful cooperation initiatives” represented by the ETC.

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He wrote: “Scottish ministers believe that the UK Government should commit financially to participation in ETC programmes for the 2021-2027 financial framework."

The letter added: “Scottish organisations are strong and valued partners in ETC projects and have, to date, been awarded over £72.5m under the 2014-2020 programmes – which with partner funding has helped deliver some £150m of project activity in Scotland.

“These projects cover a wider range of areas, contributing to a number of different Scottish Government policy priorities, with projects ranging from supporting people with Alzheimer’s living in rural areas, to enabling industry to develop innovative solutions in renewable energy.

“I look forward to clarification on whether you intend to ensure that funding for ETC will be protected within or outwith the UKSPF.”

The UK Government was approached for comment.