A successful Scotland will always prosper if we put our people first. Great world inventions have emanated from our lands – from Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone to Alexander Fleming and the invention of penicillin. But we are in a completely different world now, digital technology and social media has changed our working and living environments. It has opened up massive opportunities, but only if we are brave enough, and have the tools, to grasp them.
We only have to look at the success of businesses such as Skyscanner, BrewDog and Clyde Space – creating new business models that fit today’s consumer and global environment. These are Scotland’s new entrepreneurial giants and it is their legacy and leadership that must inspire a new generation of inventors and innovators.
But to do this, we must first invest in the future of our young people.
I want to see every young person in Scotland with the opportunities to become inspired, have ambitious plans and feel valued, regardless of their background. This is fundamental, not only in creating an inclusive Scotland, but making sure that Scotland is tapping into the exceptional pool of talent that has always set us apart from other nations.
From day one of a young person’s education journey, I want to see Scotland offer bold and ambitious opportunities. This means we have to look to the future and from a business perspective, the future is international and we have to prepare our young people now. We simply cannot let the legacy of Bell and Fleming become relegated to a class in history – their discoveries must be the inspiration for the next generation of Scottish entrepreneurs.
We have proven that we have great entrepreneurial role models – but simply not enough! We need to re-imagine how we promote a global mind-set to our young people and, yes, that requires bold steps and showcasing those that continue Bell’s legacy such as Clyde Space – a Scottish based supplier of spacecraft systems. We need to create an outward-looking culture amongst our young people and this has to start from day one of their education journey, moving towards a model which provides international languages of business as a regular and ordinary element of the school curriculum. This will inevitably support Scotland’s future trade ambitions and will naturally open up a wealth of opportunities for all of our young people to feel proud of their achievements.
It is often stated that we have more world-class universities in Scotland per head of population than anywhere else in the world, but are we becoming complacent, and are we truly ahead of the curve, or are others taking over? We must become bolder and braver in our innovation, consider doing things in a different way to achieve even better results; or example, making international experiences a standard part of our degree programmes. We must also recognise the positive contribution made to Scotland by international students because they are also the leaders of the future. We have to remain an attractive destination and seriously begin to look at adopting a more flexible attitude to post-study work visas, so we can continue to attract top talent into Scotland and also provide opportunities for the international graduates to contribute to businesses in Scotland.
These are all practical tools that can enable an inspired generation to start their own business in the knowledge and confidence that they have the right skills to do so. We all have an absolute obligation to ensure that all of our young people have opportunity and skills enabling all of our community to feel valued, respected and able to contribute to our economy. We need to create a culture where this is a natural decision, the norm. I know that this is rare, so it is up to us, the influencers, to create a vibrant inventor culture for Scotland, where all of our young people can build on the legacies of our entrepreneurial giants.
Liz Cameron OBE, Director/Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce