Scottish Enterprise’s new focus can unlock thousands of new jobs and billions of pounds to help transform Scotland’s economy

15/01/2024
Adrian Gillespie (Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise)

SCOTTISH Enterprise today unveils its future focus to help unlock thousands of new jobs and billions of pounds of global growth opportunities to deliver a more successful, greener and fairer economy.

The global economy moves quickly, and Scottish Enterprise must change its priorities, approach and structure to meet Scotland’s economic needs now and help shape our future economy.

To deliver this, the agency is changing the way it works with Scottish businesses and entrepreneurs, helping them to face into persistent challenges and grow their companies through the introduction of a mission-based approach.

This change will require a sustained effort over time on those opportunities that most effectively drive up levels of business innovation, capital investment and international activity for the greatest economic impact.

Businesses and entrepreneurs will experience intensive levels of Scottish Enterprise support with the ambition of delivering a step-change in Scotland’s economic performance.

Scottish Enterprise has previously achieved this when, 20 years ago, it identified low levels of investment in early-stage companies and business R&D spend as barriers to growth.

The agency re-focused its resources to support companies to tackle these challenges, resulting in significant improvements in performance in the years since – for example the Risk Capital Market in Scotland has grown from £82m in 2005 to £953m in 2022.

With low levels of innovation and productivity recognised* as barriers to business competitiveness, the time is right to again re-focus Scottish Enterprise’s resources across three new missions. Evidence shows there is significant potential to transform Scotland’s economy with these missions, and Scottish Enterprise’s core skills and expertise in innovation, investment and internationalisation can support a significant improvement in economic performance.

The three missions are: developing an energy transition, scaling innovation and entrepreneurship, and increasing productivity through capital investment in facilities and equipment.

The national economic development agency’s new plan, Our Focus on Economic Transformation, was officially launched by the First Minister during a visit to offshore intelligent energy management and energy storage technology company, Verlume, in Aberdeen today.

First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “Scottish Enterprise has an important role to play in driving the energy transition and advancing our vision of a fair, green and growing economy.

“This strategy builds on a strong track record of achievement and sets out how it will do this in alignment with the Scottish Government’s priorities: to support economic growth by creating high-value jobs, enabling innovation, boosting productivity and attracting investment.

“I welcome the specific emphasis Our Focus has on continuing to build close relationships with businesses and stakeholders to support that economic transformation.” 

As part of these missions, Scottish Enterprise will target high growth opportunity areas of energy transition (including offshore wind and hydrogen production), space, photonics and quantum technology, industrial biotechnology, life sciences and fintech.

This approach will also mean increased agility and pace of delivery on major opportunities across the agency’s activities, as well as closer alignment and collaboration with partners. To support this, it also requires a change in the way the organisation is structured, how the missions are led and how they are embedded into the work of everyone at Scottish Enterprise.

As a result, Scottish Enterprise expects to help businesses create, safeguard and transition thousands of jobs by 2030. For example, the scaling innovation mission alone is expected to help businesses create over 60,000 jobs and enable companies in these industries to generate almost £14 billion additional annual turnover by 2030.

Scottish Enterprise Chief Executive Adrian Gillespie commented: “Scotland has a phenomenal opportunity to harness its unique capabilities to transform the economy and now is the time to sharpen our focus to help drive this.

“Scotland has an excellent track record, for example in Foreign Direct Investment, but there is room for improvement in other areas. We need a future economy that drives up levels of investment and innovation that positively impacts economic performance and generates wealth for everyone in Scotland. We are changing the way we are organised, how we work and what we do, to help secure that.

Our Focus is our blueprint to enable our businesses to deliver high value jobs, boost their levels of innovation and productivity, and create wealth for Scotland’s economy.

“It signals the start of a different approach for Scottish Enterprise, making sure we do everything we can, alongside our partners, to support ambitious businesses and entrepreneurs and deliver a successful, growing economy for all of Scotland. To do this, we will focus on those opportunities that can deliver transformational growth.”

The energy transition mission aims to accelerate technology innovation, supply chain capability and investment in manufacturing and key infrastructure – such as at ports and harbours, with the potential to double the number of companies operating across energy sectors. It will also ensure that the wider economy benefits from the opportunities presented by the need to adapt and change and ultimately, become a net zero greenhouse gas emitting nation by 2045.

Verlume is one company already taking advantage of the opportunities in energy transition with Scottish Enterprise support. The agency took equity ownership in Verlume, alongside private sector partners, to support the company’s ambitions, capitalise on opportunities within the energy transition and grow the business at pace. Scottish Enterprise’s international division has also provided assistance to explore international markets and export opportunities.

Mocean Energy, another Scottish Enterprise supported company, is now working closely with Verlume to build new technology solutions to decarbonise offshore operations. Verlume is currently a joint technology partner with Mocean Energy in the Renewables for Subsea Power joint industry project, which proves the concept of providing a constant supply of renewable power to subsea infrastructure by connecting its Halo subsea battery energy storage system with Mocean Energy’s Blue X wave energy converter.

Richard Knox, Verlume CEO, said “Scottish Enterprise has been a pivotal supporter of Verlume’s growth over the last ten years, having received significant research and development support, as well as accessing the agency’s expertise and connections to global markets and contacts. This support has allowed us to work at the forefront of the energy transition, reducing emissions associated with existing offshore operations and now scaling our energy management and storage technology with multi-million-pound commercial orders being delivered in the offshore wind market to optimise wind farm performance. 

“Hopefully we can be an example of how others can take their existing capabilities, and through innovation build their business to allow them to make a positive contribution towards achieving emissions reduction targets and net zero.

“It is encouraging to see the energy transition as one of Scottish Enterprise’s new missions, alongside scaling innovation, entrepreneurship, and productivity, which will be key elements of ensuring Scotland remains a global leader within this new energy industrial revolution with benefits across the whole economy.”

The scaling innovation mission will support those industries where Scotland has global strengths, and fully utilise our world class innovation capability and infrastructure to convert and scale innovation into growth. Growing these industries will help boost Scotland’s productivity and will create good quality, higher paid jobs across the country.

The ambitious productivity mission will seek to drive up the levels of capital investment into the economy that will facilitate an increase in business productivity, leading to higher value jobs while improving standards of living and reducing poverty. Increasing productivity can boost output and earnings, for example if Scottish productivity matched the OECD top quartile today the Scottish economy would be £35 billion better off, with annual average wages between £2000 and £5500 higher.

Scottish Enterprise already has a strong track record as a partner in developing transformative projects across the country, from Aberdeen Harbour – now the largest port in Scotland and critical to the energy sector transition, to the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland in Renfrewshire which is driving the future of manufacturing through innovation, to the Bioquarter at Little France in Edinburgh – a world-leading health innovation district.  

Over the last five years, Scottish Enterprise has delivered:

  • 75,000 new and safeguarded jobs, raising additional income tax of £900 million
  • £87 million of capital investment grant support to businesses, levering a further £460 million from other sources
  • Businesses support to export projects that could generate £8 billion in additional export sales
  • Scotland’s position as the most popular UK location outside London for inward investment and grown the country’s attractiveness to investors over that period
  • £600m of SE income which is then reinvested into Scotland’s economy
  • support to businesses and partners that is expected to deliver £2.5 billion of capital investment and £2.3 billion of investment in innovation and R&D

The finances available to Scottish Enterprise and across the wider public sector are constrained, with partnership working to combine resources vital in supporting the agency’s objectives to unlock future transformational opportunities for Scottish businesses, projects and infrastructure.

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