John Mackenzie, Senior Innovation Manager with HIE, shares his thoughts on the Chamber Spotlight event and offers an insight into how his team can support innovation
It feels like the world has changed beyond all recognition since the 2019 Chamber Highland Spotlight event held at the Kingsmills.
I always enjoyed supporting the HIE stand over the years. There is always a great buzz about the venue with the room bursting with enthusiasm, ideas and contacts developed as well as a large number of tasty treats on offer.
So I always took the opportunity to have a wander about and this sparked a few interesting projects that I’ve been involved in over the years.
The virtual event held during lockdown was great but this event in particular has always had its strength in the interaction between delegates and exhibitors and very few events in the Highlands have such a strong representation from both business and public sector.
Going back to the past few years, we’ve experienced a pandemic, lockdowns, Brexit, war in Ukraine, cost of living crisis, supply chain issues, all of which has culminated in an ever changing and a challenging business and economic environment.
Throughout this challenging period innovation and Research & Development have very much been to the fore with businesses adapting and pivoting to survive, medical research developing vaccines and everyone innovating in terms of how and from where they work.
The need however to support businesses on their innovation journey has never been stronger. This is why I was delighted we approved a new three-year programme of Innovation support in July. This will enable our innovation team to further develop the range of support we can offer our clients across the region.
Our innovation team is expanding with new recruits and will work closely through client engagement to identify opportunities for innovation that will address net zero, improve productivity and efficiency, and help support the structuring of an innovation project.
Our support covers all aspects of innovation and R & D which includes guidance on funding, protecting intellectual assets, improving existing processes and helping to creating new products.
The innovation support landscape can appear a little scary and confusing both regionally in the Highlands and nationally with a variety of support on offer. Our motto has always been there is no wrong door, and we work closely with other support partners such as Northern Innovation hub, Business Gateway, Interface, UHI, Innovation centres and national partners, such as Innovate UK, to provide a joined-up service of support.
This is also what is so great about the chamber event with many of these support organisations represented and able to direct delegates to the best person to speak too.
The past two years have been challenging for everyone. Almost every sector has experienced or is still experiencing problems such as recruitment, rising energy costs, and need to keep working at being more productive and efficient. Challenging as this is, it also often leads to opportunities to innovate and there’s a lot of support out there to help.