SCDI Forum

Yousaf sets out innovation strategy for economy

Humza Yousaf today told a business gathering in Edinburgh that he wants to build the Scottish economy around a purpose and innovation agenda.

The First Minister opened the Scottish Council for Development and Industry’s two-day Forum by setting out plans to emulate countries such as Denmark, Finland and Norway.

An innovation strategy, shaped by a steering group co-chaired by Sir Jim McDonald, of Strathclyde University, will be published this week.

Mr Yousaf argues that innovation and entrepreneurship will be crucial to harness the opportunities presented by net zero and secure prosperity for Scotland.

He outlines projects already under way such as the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland and seven Innovation Centres in areas such as biotechnology and data.

The First Minister said: “The move to net zero is not simply an environmental necessity, but a massive economic opportunity.

“It is crucial to Scotland’s future prosperity – so we will work with businesses to make the transition a success. That success will depend, to a large extent, on our ability to innovate.”

He added: “Innovation has already been an important focus for government investment in recent years. In the last decade, we’ve set up seven Innovation Centres in areas such as biotechnology and data.

“We’ve established new bodies such as the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland. And we’ve positioned Scotland as a testing ground for new net zero technologies – including hydrogen transport and floating wind power.”

Drawing on the experiences of other countries, he said Scotland needs to develop a strategy that will enable Scotland to position itself as a world leader, building on the observations of one of his predecessor’s papers on independence.

“Countries such as Denmark, Norway and Finland currently do better than Scotland in using innovation to secure economic growth,” the First Minister said.

National Manufacturing Institute
The National Manufacturing Institute sets an example, says the First Minister

“The innovation strategy will outline how we intend to emulate those countries – including by developing clusters in areas where we already have a competitive advantage – such as net zero, advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences, and data and digital technology.

“The innovation strategy will, I hope, lead to a lasting improvement in Scotland’s economic performance, and signal that Scotland is determined to become a world leader in entrepreneurship and innovation.”

However, Labour today says the SNP has failed on skills and training and is “squandering” Scotland’s economic potential.

The latest Business Insights and Conditions Survey for Scotland shows Scotland’s skills crisis continues to seriously hamper the economy.


The survey shows that every month for more than a year, 40-50% of Scotland’s employers have said they are struggling to recruit workers.

This labour market failure, it says, is resulting in almost half of those businesses being unable to meet demand or having to cease trading temporarily in some form – a quarter of all businesses in Scotland.

Key growth sectors, such as construction and hospitality are suffering even more acutely with half of all businesses reporting recruitment difficulties.

Scottish Labour Economy spokesperson Daniel Johnson said: “Once again the SNP-Green government’s incompetence is holding back Scotland’s economy.

“The Scottish Government talk of ‘re-setting’ relations with business, but businesses are still crying out for a highly skilled, flexible workforce equipped for the jobs of the future.

Daniel Johnson
Daniel Johnson: SNP has failed on skills

“Scotland’s economic potential is being squandered and growth is being suffocated by this SNP-Green government’s failure on skills – and we are all paying the price. 

“To seize the opportunities of our transition to a net-zero economy and the technological revolution we need a skills system fit for the future.”

Jonathan Reynolds, Labour Shadow Secretary for Business and Industrial Strategy was among the speakers the SCDI Forum. Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Innovate UK, will deliver the keynote speech on Tuesday.

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