Innovation is fundamental to business growth and diversification. It is also absolutely essential in Scotland’s economic recovery as we emerge from the impacts of COVID-19.
There’s never a bad time for businesses to innovate, but it’s fair to say that now has to be one of the most important times to explore and embrace fresh ideas and approaches.
And for construction and manufacturing SMEs across our region looking to do so, there has been some really good news recently.
On 29 May, Fiona Hyslop Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture announced an additional £20m for the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), bringing total Scottish Government investment to £75m.
The Cabinet Secretary also announced £15.8m investment in 12 projects from the Advanced Manufacturing Challenge Fund (AMCF). This is a partnership of HIE, Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise that includes £8.3m from the European Regional Development Fund.
The projects include one led by West Highland College UHI and a collaboration between Inverness College UHI and the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC).
The West Highland College UHI Advanced Manufacturing in the West Highlands initiative project is a £1.6m initiative to provide local businesses with access to advanced manufacturing technology and expertise.
It will support SMEs and micro businesses involved in manufacturing across different industry sectors, including food and drink, construction, aquaculture, metals and timber.
The multi-sector approach will give local firms access to new advanced manufacturing equipment and specialist expertise. This will help inform their adoption of new technology, processes and products and lead to improved productivity.
The collaboration between Inverness College UHI and CSIS is the new Make it Smart Hub.
This will support and encourage construction and manufacturing SMEs to learn, apply and share new technologies, processes and skills, that improve productivity and drive inclusive growth.
Through multiple channels it will make it easier for companies to engage, collaborate, learn and apply innovation in their businesses, wherever they are based. The aim is to improve productivity and profitability, secure competitive advantage, and unlock new economic opportunities.
This will be a real boost to areas of construction, such as digitisation, offsite manufacturing, low carbon technologies and technical expertise.
All of this coincides with NMIS announcing the £42m construction contract for its flagship facility near Glasgow Airport. With a fully digitalised factory of the future, skills academy and collaboration hub, this will support manufacturing and engineering firms across the country to innovate and grow their businesses.
These new initiatives place innovation at the heart of construction and manufacturing operations and will help strengthen our region’s position through the recovery stages and beyond.