It takes a certain kind of outlook to see opportunity in times of crisis.

Thankfully that outlook exists in bucketloads across the Highlands and Islands business community.

We call it innovation. It’s always been a key driver of business growth and therefore something we continue to support.

As we’ve seen this past year and a half, it also improves business resilience and will ultimately help protect them against future knocks.

Following the onset of the pandemic, which caused chaos on a scale we’ve never seen before, businesses across the region rose to the challenge, and rise to it still. It’s what’s kept many of them alive.

There were those that adapted to directly support the national effort to minimise and counter the impacts.

There were those that used downtime to rethink what products and services they provide and how they do that.

And many were also coming up with completely new business ideas.

Underlining all of this was a massive increase in the use of digital technology, especially moving activity online to stay engaged with existing customers and accessing new ones.

These sorts of changes resulted in many great examples of innovation in action, including:

  • Gro for Good in Dornoch, applied an approach to local food production on the principles of circular economy and zero food miles. They implemented innovation in training, food production, and in using the community enterprise model.
  • Bespoke Fabrics Ltd in Moray landed a patent for its Ava Innes range of sustainable luxury duvet and pillow products made from waste cashmere products. Not only does this reduce waste in the sector, but at the end of their lifecycle the products can be returned to the ground instead of going to landfill.
  • Midton Acrylics in Argyll jumped on new market opportunities created by the pandemic. After initially producing PPE as a community service and then commercially, the firm adapted to produce larger items, such as screening, to enable social distancing in workplaces.

As we emerge from the crisis, we’re witnessing new ways of working, learning, traveling, and socialising, as well as new ways of doing business. At the same time, we’re being challenged to accelerate the transition to a net zero economy.

The need for innovation, and for innovation support, therefore, has never been greater. It can be relatively small changes to the way businesses do things, how they produce or provide a service, all the way through to a complete overhaul of the business to enter new markets.

Whatever it is, we can help with one-to-one advice, plugging skills gaps with a technology placements, protecting intellectual property, finding the right collaboration partners and funding.

There really has never been a better time to explore innovation.

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