Investigating innovation in Scotland

Wednesday 24 September 2003

An expert in economics is about to launch a six-month study into Scotland’s most innovative development firms.

Professor Gavin Reid of the University of St Andrews Department of Economics will lead research which will look at the formation of high-technology clusters in Scotland, and the networks that are created to support their performance.

It will involve face-to-face meetings with many of Scotland’s most innovative development firms active in areas like biotechnology, embedded software, microelectronics, optoelectronics, and digital media.

Clusters are regional concentrations of companies, suppliers, institutions and foundations within a sector which provide a network of support enabling a pooling of competitive advantages and limited resources. This leads to more effective collaboration, cooperation, competition, and partnership within the cluster.

High-tech clusters are facilitated by techno-poles, an idea first introduced in France with its science city Sophia Antipolis on the Cote D’Azur being specifically created for that purpose. This idea is attractive to Scottish thinking, and Edinburgh is in the frame for developing a techno- pole. The vision for the Edinburgh techno-pole is for an annual ‘new build’ to create an entrepreneurial and scientific community over a period of just a few years. Over and above the high quality offered, the techno- pole will be in the midst of a dynamic business network which will also lead to cross- fertilization of ideas, cooperation between companies, and the stimulation of spin-outs.

The principal aim of the research is to see what the roles of cooperative and collaborative arrangements are in raising the innovative performance and commercial success of the clusters. Professor Reid, as Director of the Centre for Research into Industry, Enterprise, Finance and the Firm (CRIEFF) at St Andrews, aims to model the process of cluster formation, in order to feed back into the policy process the most effective way of stimulating such clusters to perform well.

Professor Reid commented: “We will be looking at suppliers, customers, consultancies, universities, government bodies, and professional organizations. and concerned with such things as costs, risk spreading, access to markets, and recruitment.”

As the information economy develops, so the idea of a cluster is being extended to ‘virtual space’, as opposed geographic space, as partners can be in close contact in cyber space, even though being geographically remote.

The work is sponsored by ScotEcon.Net, an independent research network, whose aims are to increase the quality and volume of work on the Scottish economy.

Professor Reid added: “I am delighted to get this support from ScotEcon.Net, which is timely, in that it is set against a policy background of considerable interest in high-technology clusters, and what they can contribute to Scotland’s competitive advantage in the early twenty-first century.”

“The roots of this are in a DTI paper of 1998 on our competitive future in the UK, and subsequent policy documents from Scottish Enterprise, where certain expectations were formed of the roles of key structural factors, like skills, finance, investment, start-ups, impinging on institutions like education, companies, research institutes, etc. to produce high technology synergies.”

This research is part of ongoing work in CRIEFF on the Scottish economy, where recent work has involved looking at long-lived small firms in Scotland, and the support of high-technology enterprises by venture capital investment.

ENDS Note to Editors: Professor Gavin Reid can be contacted at the University of St Andrews on 01334 462431 or e-mail: gcr@st-

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Emily Saunders on 01334 462244, mobile 07713 149 186, or email [email protected] Ref: CRIEFF 240903 View the latest University news at

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