WEDNESDAY 14 FEB 2018 12:54 PM


For some companies, ‘innovation’ is nothing more than a buzzword lent credence by marketing and PR campaigns, or used as a synonym for change. For the north of Scotland, however, the word has meaning – it represents the significant strides being made to empower entrepreneurs in the Highlands and Islands business community.

Connecting business owners and operators with creatives, the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) initiative sees businesses across the region given access to a free 24-hour business innovation hotline. The campaign, whose visuals have been designed by Glasgow-based creative communications agency Wire, launches on 16 February – better known as ‘Innovation Day’ to local businesses.

And for HIE, the benefits of innovation in the Highlands and Island has repercussions for Scotland’s wider business community. Forming part of the country’s Enterprise Strategy, which aims to open up Scotland to international business opportunities, the HIE initiative includes a region historically isolated both physically and economically from the wider UK. Says the website for Scottish Enterprise, “[We want] Scotland to be an innovative, high wage and high productivity economy that competes in international markets and focuses on high value goods and services.”

For Gillian Galloway, head of innovation at HIE, the success of previous Innovation Days leaves her in no doubt of the benefits they provide for the Highlands and Islands economy, and morale. The past two years has seen HIE’s innovation team support over 500 local organisations and awarded 30 small business grants, totalling over £270,000.  “Some of the best innovations can come from small usability changes to existing products, new ways to deliver services to customers or improving internal processes,” says Galloway. “Whilst these changes may appear relatively small the overall impact they can have can be huge.”

Galloway continues, “We offer year-round opportunities for funding and hope that our initiative will get more businesses interested and eager to make positive changes. We know that time can be a key challenge for companies exploring innovation, with concerns about the effort involved proving worthwhile. Our ‘HIE time to innovate’ #HIEtime campaign aims to address these concerns.”

For Crùbag, a textile company inspired by marine research and oceans and based in Oban, western Scotland, the partnership initiative has been integral in making her small business a success. “I’ve benefited from [HIE’] courses, mentorship, network introductions and small grant funding,” says owner and founder of Crùbag, Jessica Giannotti. “It’s been a generous, very human, informative experience. For me innovation is something that should always be present in our business discussions. If we don’t solve problems we become stagnant.”

The HIE campaign announcement follows the news that the organisation’s innovation funding has increased turnover for local organisations by £2.2 million. However, its ambitions are not latent; the enterprise aims to generate £1.4 million more in the coming months, proving geographical remoteness does not always equal a remote interest in building a regional, or even national, economy.

For more information on the initiative and hotline, visit the HIE website.

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