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Innovation in Scotland

Innovation can be the key to the success and longevity of your business, and Scotland is the perfect place to cultivate it. With our skills and expertise, strong networks, and collaboration between industry, academia and government, our innovation ecosystem is ready to inspire and support you.

A culture of innovation

Scotland has a long history of innovation that’s as strong today as it ever has been. 

From the telephone to the ATM, penicillin to the colour photograph, Scotland has claim to many great inventions and discoveries. 

This heritage of innovation combined with our established capabilities, collaborative clusters and dedicated innovation centres come together to create an ecosystem that supports the growth of revolutionary new industries that can provide radical solutions for global challenges, from right here in Scotland.

We’re already working on ground-breaking innovative products and services – like thermal imaging that helps robots detect humans, flat-packed building blocks made from recycled plastic, molecular imaging technology, revolutionary malaria treatment and biofuel made from whisky by-products.

But don’t just take our word for it. The October 2023 British Business Bank Nations and Regions tracker found that Edinburgh is the UK’s top innovation-led cluster for equity deals outside of London, with Glasgow just behind in third place.

The UK cities 2023 mid-year reportopens in a new window also highlighted Aberdeen as one of the most attractive locations in the UK and Europe for investment in low-carbon technologies across different sectors, thanks to its investment zone focused on research and innovation.

Learn more about Scotland’s history of innovation on the Brand Scotland websiteopens in a new window 

Supporting spinouts

Scotland’s research and development capability, considerable expertise across sectors and innovative culture has long helped catalyse research into spin-out companies.

Since 2011, the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde have consistently appeared in the UK top ten for the total number of spinouts created, and in 2021 more equity deals involving spinouts come from Scottish universities than anywhere else in the UK.  

All 19 of our universities are committed to supporting spinouts, for example by motivating their academics to form spinouts, providing access to intellectual property and supporting activities across all sectors.

Key sectors for innovation

Global challenges demand radical solutions, and Scotland's established capabilities create the perfect environment for revolutionary new ideas, innovations and solutions to be developed. Here are some of the areas where this is already happening and you can get involved. 

While Scotland may have only recently earned its title as the ‘windbreak of Europe’, the first electricity produced from wind energy in Scotland was way back in 1887 in Aberdeenshire.

We’ve come quite a way from Professor James Blyth’s garden turbine, though. With our abundant natural resources, we currently generate 10.9 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy from onshore and offshore wind in Scotland, with a further 30 GW from 20 ScotWind projects proposed for development – and that’s just the beginning.

Opportunities abound in offshore wind in Scotland across innovation, manufacturing and supply chain development.

Find out more about Scotland’s offshore wind industry 

While hydrogen is just one of the renewable resources that can help us in our drive to achieve net zero, it stands apart due its versatility and scalability – and Scotland is perfectly placed to become a leader in the hydrogen economy.

Scottish hydrogen production capacity is set to be 25 GW by 2045, with the potential to gain a 13% share of the European hydrogen market as we rapidly develop as a future centre for hydrogen production.

Regional hydrogen hubs are already forming across the country, encompassing every part of the H2 supply chain. Elsewhere, our innovation ecosystem is advancing the tools, techniques and technology that we need for H2 production.

Find out more about Scotland’s hydrogen solutions  

Scotland is known for its temperamental weather, so it’s not surprising that heat is the single greatest source of its carbon emissions. While we may not be able to change our grey days, we can decarbonise our heat industry.

Scotland has ambitious targets for clean heat – by 2030, the equivalent of half of our total energy demand (including heat, electricity and transport) is to be supplied by renewable sources, and over 200,000 zero emissions heating systems will be installed into homes across the country.

And with a committed public sector spend of £1.8 billion on decarbonising heat, there are a huge number of investment opportunities in our innovative heat solutions, from heat pumps to minewater geothermal technologies.

Find clean heat opportunities in Scotland 

Scotland’s vibrant software and IT industry offers products and services across a wide range of industries, from financial services and healthcare to energy and space.

Our dynamic software sector provides products and services across a wide range of end markets from public services, through traditional industries such as banking and insurance to the new and innovative industries like renewables and biotechnology.

With our long tradition of tech innovation stronger than ever, Scotland is home to 11,200 digital companies. And with 15,000 graduates each year in the areas of IT, engineering, maths and sciences, the 536% increase in digital start-ups in Edinburgh is just the beginning.

Find software and IT opportunities in Scotland 

Where the world once looked to Scotland for our engineering excellence in trains and ships, today we are channelling our proud industrial heritage into spaceships and satellites.

In a few short years, our nation has developed world-class capability in small satellite manufacturing, data analysis and earth observation. Our satellite data is tracking elephant migration, monitoring biodiversity loss and gas levels, and classifying 240 billion trees.

But that all needs energy – and Scottish space companies are committed to that energy being renewable. They’re using ‘green’ rocket fuels that produce up to 90% less carbon, and the Sutherland spaceport is aiming to be the world’s first carbon-neutral spaceport.

Find out more about the space technology industry in Scotland  

Scotland’s innovative companies invest millions every year into research and development (R&D) to help global customers discover and develop new ways of treating and curing a range of diseases.

World-renowned for pharmaceutical services, Scotland has some of the most advanced scientific manufacturing, production, R&D facilities, scientists and industry specialists in the world. They are supported by a collaborative life sciences industry and the UK’s well-respected regulatory framework.

Find Scottish pharma services and biotech companies 

Scotland has a history of drug discovery excellence, including some of the world’s best-selling medications, as well as the ability to quickly mobilise and support the development of treatments.

We also host one of the most sizeable life sciences clusters in Europe, with comprehensive areas of strength ranging from animal health to regenerative medicine. And we’re recognised by the global life sciences community as a centre of excellence for pharma and biotech outsourcing.

So, if you’re looking for innovative opportunities in life sciences, look no further.

Discover more about Scotland’s health and life sciences industries 

Alongside government agencies and investors, Scottish universities are at the forefront of developing technology in photonics, lasers, and quantum research.

Quantum technologies are widely predicted to be the next major transformational tech. Secure data transfers and highly accurate navigation systems all benefit from quantum technologies, which many suggest could reshape industries on an unparalleled level.

Several highly promising quantum initiatives are underway in Scotland. Alongside this, there is a desire to attract investment and ensure the commercial viability of this emerging technology.

Learn more about Scotland’s progress in quantum technologies  

Funding for innovation

Innovation, research and development are key to Scotland’s growth, and that’s why we offer generous funding for innovative projects and businesses via Scottish Enterprise, Scotland's national economic development agency. As well as grant funding, Scottish Enterprise can help you access other forms of finance, such as investors.

If you’re planning on doing research and development work, Scotland is the ideal place.

Find out more from Scottish Enterprise opens in a new window 

Scotland's Innovation Centres and Centres of Excellence

In Scotland, great ideas are nurtured. Across all industries and technologies, our innovation centres and centres of excellence exist to help businesses do incredible things. Here’s a flavour of the ways our centres can help you.

Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland (AMIDS) 

AMIDS is leading the way in collaborative innovation. A net zero campus housing institutes of excellence, major research centres, international manufacturers and business park infrastructure.

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National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) 

Industry-led manufacturing R&D facilities, providing ground-breaking collaborations to transform productivity levels, competitiveness and skills.

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ARCHER2 – national supercomputing service

Based in the University of Edinburgh and run by Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC), this unique service offers access the UK’s primary academic research supercomputer.

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Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre

One of the leading supercomputing centres in Europe and provider of training in high performance computing. Internationally renowned for all aspects of data research.

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National Centre of Excellence for Computer Games 

Based at Abertay university, this centre of excellence is at the forefront of education and research. It offers cross-disciplinary Masters programmes and was rated as the top international school for games design by Princeton Review.opens in a new window 

Abertay University Website opens in a new window 

 

QuantIC

QuantIC is hosted at the University of Glasgow and is part of a £120m network of four quantum technology hubs across the UK. The Glasgow hub focuses on quantum imaging and brings together 120 researchers and over 30 industry partners to revolutionise imaging across markets.  

Through industrial collaboration, QuantIC can offer access to leading academics in quantum imaging, various funding streams and lab and hot-desking facilities. 

More on the QuantIC website opens in a new window 

Smart Data Foundry

The Smart Data Foundry is a not-for-profit organisation seeking to unlock the power of financial data to tackle the biggest issues to create positive impact across society, the economy and the environment.

With board members from government, industry and academia, it leverages its demonstrable expertise across data and financial services to facilitate collaboration, remove barriers and encourage partnerships to unlock the power of financial data.

Learn more on the Smart Data Foundry websiteopens in a new window 

Edinburgh International Data Facility

Edinburgh International Data Facility is a collaboration between The University of Edinburgh and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (PE).

Europe’s first region-wide data innovation hub, it brings together regional, national and international datasets to create new products, services and research. 

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Centre for Sensors and Imaging Systems (CENSIS)

Working to develop effective solutions using sensor, imaging and internet of things (IoT) technologies bridging the gap between industry and universities.

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Urban Big Data Centre (UBDC)

The Urban Big Data Centre is a national research hub and data service, championing the use of smart data to inform policymaking and enhance the quality of urban life.

It provides access to data collections, tools, training and expertise from Scottish universities and other partners for improving cities worldwide.

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Bayes Centre

Home to more than 600 experts in data science and artificial intelligence, dedicated to nurturing innovation by advancing digital technology, space and satellites, robotics and autonomous systems.

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UK Astronomy Technology Centre

The UK's national centre for astronomical technology is based in Edinburgh and home to the Higgs Centre for Innovation opens in a new window - a facility that supports startups and SMEs working in the space and data-intensive sectors, and encourages collaboration between researchers, engineers and post-graduate students.​

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The Data Lab

Supporting the Scottish digital economy and the use and innovation of data science.

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Fraunhofer UK Centre for Applied Photonics

The Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics (CAP), hosted at the University of Strathclyde, is a world-leading centre in the field of applied laser research and development. Since opening in 2012, Fraunhofer CAP has worked on more than 200 diverse projects with dozens of companies, other Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs) and universities in contract and collaborative R&D projects.

Fraunhofer CAP website opens in a new window 

 

cyberQuarter 

Abertay University is home to an £18 million cybersecurity research and development centre. It brings together students, academics and organisations to help solve global cybersecurity challenges.  

More about the cyberQuarter project opens in a new window 

 

Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security 

Edinburgh Napier University is officially recognised by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) as an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Education (ACE-CSE).

It’s one of only two universities in Scotland, and only 11 other institutions in the UK, to have its work in cyber security education recognised in this way.

Edinburgh is recognised by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) as meeting rigorous standards, including a critical mass of academic staff engaged in a significant volume of leading-edge, high-impact cyber security research.

More on the University of Edinburgh website opens in a new window 

 

Blockchain Technology Lab 

Based within the Edinburgh School of Informatics, the lab carries out open access research in blockchain technologies and decentralized systems in collaboration with industry and government partners. The lab focuses on industry inspired challenges, studying topics such as cryptography, regulation and compliance, business and law. 

More on the University of Edinburgh websiteexternal link which will open in a new window opens in a new window 

Food Innovation @ Abertay 

A practical innovation support service offering specialist staff, equipment and facilities.

More about food innovation on the Abertay website  opens in a new window  

 

Queen Margaret University

Hosts the Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation (SCFDI), which was established in response to demand for combined R&D and innovation space to support the sector in accessing export markets in the rapidly expanding global functional and healthy food sector.

More about food innovation on the Queen Margaret University website opens in a new window  

 

Scottish Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre

Supporting business and academics to transform Scottish aquaculture by unlocking sustainable growth through innovation.

Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre website opens in a new window  

 

SEFARI: The Scottish Environment Food and Agriculture Research Institutes

A consortium of six globally renowned research institutes supporting agriculture, land use, food and rural communities.

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The International Centre for Brewing and Distilling 

A teaching and research facility within Heriot-Watt University, supplying the malting, brewing, distilling and allied industries with services, expertise and facilities.

International Centre for Brewing and Distilling website  opens in a new window  

 

The James Hutton Institute

One of the biggest environmental and food science research centres in the UK and the first of its type in Europe, it employs more than 500 scientists and support staff. 

Two new plant science innovation centres are being developed at the James Hutton Institute's Tayside campus - the International Barley Hub and Advanced Plant Growth Centre. With completion expected in early 2024, the centres will bring together industry and world-leading science to focus on solutions for the food and drink industry regarding climate change and a green recovery from the Covid pandemic.

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The Rowett Institute

Part of the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition at the University of Aberdeen and widely considered to be a global leader in nutrition research.

Learn more about the Rowett Institute on the University of Aberdeen website opens in a new window  

 

The Scotch Whisky Research Institute

The UK distilling industry’s research and technology organisation, carrying out research across the entire Scotch Whisky production process, from barley to bottle, as well as providing technical support and analytical and sensory services on whisky and other spirits.

Scotch Whisky Research Institute website opens in a new window  

 

The International Barley Hub

World-leading centre at the James Hutton Institute near Dundee to translate excellence in barley research and innovation into economic, social and environmental benefits.

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BioHub - Aberdeen

A transformational £40 million innovative space accelerating research commercialisation and boosting the entrepreneurial ecosystem in north-east Scotland.

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Digital Health and Care Innovation Centre

Defining and designing the digital health and care future for a healthier Scotland.

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Edinburgh BioQuarter

Edinburgh BioQuarter is already a leading global destination for healthcare delivery, groundbreaking medical research and life sciences innovation and entrepreneurship.

Over the next decade, BioQuarter will continue to grow and become Edinburgh’s Health Innovation District, a new vibrant mixed-use neighbourhood of Edinburgh, centred around a world-leading community of health innovators and companies.

Learn more on the Edinburgh BioQuarter site opens in a new window 

 

Industrial Biotechnology Centre

Enabling the transition into industrial biotechnology by helping companies understand sector opportunities.

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Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre

The £56 million Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (MMIC) is at the heart of the emerging Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland (AMIDS). The centre is a collaboration between CPI, University of Strathclyde, UK Research and Innovation, Scottish Enterprise and founding industry partners, AstraZeneca and GSK.

The UK innovation centre will revolutionise how medicines are manufactured and speed up the process of bringing new drugs to market. It aims to attract more than £80 million in research and development (R&D) investment by 2028. It will offer a unique service aimed at developing and adopting novel manufacturing techniques that pharma companies can use in their own manufacturing processes.

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Investment opportunities at AMIDS opens in a new window 

 

The Living Lab

The Living Laboratory at the University of Glasgow’s Precision Medicine Living Lab secured around £90 million funding and will set out to bring new science and innovation to a real-world clinical setting.

Based next to the city's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, it will foster cross-sector collaborations to exploit research for the benefit of patients.

It builds on Scotland's clinical and academic strengths within the life sciences community and Scotland’s reputation as a world leading centre of excellence in precision medicine. 

Learn more on the University of Glasgow website opens in a new window   

 

Precision Medicine Scotland

Bringing together clinicians, researchers and industry innovators to develop patient-specific medical innovation.

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Tayside Cities Regional Innovation Hub

Based at the University of Dundee, the Life Sciences Innovation Hub is a £40 million facility scheduled to open in 2024. The hub will support high-growth health and life sciences companies, including spinouts from the University, in translating scientific innovation into new therapies, technologies and treatment for public benefit.

The hub is part of a wider Growing the Tay Cities Bioemedical Cluster project opens in a new window which has received initial funding of £25 million from the Scottish Government.

 

Other centres of excellence improving health and care with data

Energy Technology Partnership

Scotland’s Energy Technology Partnership (ETP) is the largest most broad-based energy research partnership in Europe. The ETP is an autonomous alliance of 14 independent Scottish Higher Education Institutions providing world-class capability, resources and specialist expertise in renewable generation, energy conversion, storage, distribution and infrastructure. 

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Energy Transition Alliance

Ground-breaking collaboration to accelerate the energy transition focusing on floating wind for oil and gas production, increased renewables, hydrogen and carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS).

Learn more about the alliance on the catapult offshore renewable energy website opens in a new window 

 

European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC)

The EMEC in Orkney aims to reduce the time, cost, and risk associated with the development of marine energy technologies. It's the first and only centre of its kind in the world to provide developers of both wave and tidal energy converters (technologies that generate electricity by harnessing the power of waves and tidal streams) with purpose-built, accredited open-sea testing facilities. It's also a cutting-edge demonstration site for new hydrogen technologies.

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Aberdeen Offshore Windfarm

Aberdeen offshore wind farm (also known as the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre) is believed to be Scotland’s largest offshore wind test and demonstration facility. Located just off the coast of Aberdeen, the site contains 11 8.8-megawatt (MW) wind turbines, which were the most powerful in the world when built.  

Spearheaded by Vattenfall, the project has been awarded up to €40 million Euros of European Union funding, and has been producing electricity since July 2018.

Learn more on the Vattenfall websiteopens in a new window 

 

Hydrogen Accelerator

The Hydrogen (H2) Accelerator is enabling the effective and efficient implementation of hydrogen technologies into Scotland.

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Industrial Doctoral Centre in Offshore Renewable Energy (IDCORE)

A multi-disciplinary centre training engineers and scientists to tackle current and future offshore renewable energy challenges.

Find out more on the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) website opens in a new window 

 

Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc (MSIP)

Based in Dundee, MSIP provides an environment for innovation and R&D in sustainable mobility/transport. MSIP features excellent infrastructure, connectivity and space to grow as well as green energy and heat supplied from local sustainable sources.

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National HVDC Centre

Based in Cumbernauld, Scotland, the National HVDC Centre is the UK's only simulation and training facility designed to support and de-risk projects for all High Voltage Direct Current schemes connecting to the UK grid. This state-of-the-art facility ensures the integrity and security of the grid network.

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Net Zero Technology Centre

Cutting-edge innovation centre that develops and deploys technology to accelerate the transition to an affordable net zero energy industry. Also leads the Net Zero Solution Centre.

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Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult

Leading innovation centre with the world's most comprehensive, open-access test facilities, enabling the scale-up of offshore renewables.

Since 2013, it has supported 677 innovation projects, 650 R&D projects and 1350 UK SMEs. 

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Power Networks Demonstration Centre (PNDC)

Based at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, this venture was founded by government, industrial and academic partners. It aims to accelerate technology testing of distribution networks and smart grid innovations, including whole energy systems, heat and hydrogen.

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Water Test Network

Water Test Network is an Interreg-funded project giving companies access to water test facilities across north-west Europe. Scotland is now the best supported place in Europe for companies to carry out research and demonstration of water related technology.

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Construction Scotland

Building Scotland's exciting construction future through innovation and collaboration.

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UNESCO Centre for Water law, policy and science

Based at the University of Dundee, with a global reputation in research, trans-boundary water governance, integrated water and coastal zone management and climate adaptation.

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