Vision Voices: How has an innovation changed your business?

Professor Harald Haas, director of LiFi Research and Development Centre at Edinburgh University.
Professor Harald Haas, director of LiFi Research and Development Centre at Edinburgh University.

Small things sometimes make the world of difference, so we asked: how has an innovation changed your business?

Kent Mackenzie, head of risk analytics & fintech, Deloitte

Philip Hogg, director of sales and marketing, Cala Homes (East)

Philip Hogg, director of sales and marketing, Cala Homes (East)

We find ourselves in a hugely exciting time – the exponential growth and rate of change in technology has never been stronger, the scale and extent of ‘big-data’ means we can analyse, assess and predict most things, and in a world that is ever more connected it’s never been a more critical time to innovate.

Working with our clients to help be at the cutting edge of this is both mind-blowing and energising.

Understanding the potential for artificial intelligence to radically change customer service, or how robotics can automate age-old processes is standard fare.

Alongside this we take care not to forget the cultural element and what this means to the workplace, the employee, and the customer of the present, and the future. Our world is changing too however, audit and advisory services could well be “crowd-sourced” or automated in the future, it’s both a threat and an opportunity – across the firm we’re advancing with this to innovate our business in many different ways.

David Hunter, chief executive and founder of Shot Scope.

David Hunter, chief executive and founder of Shot Scope.

What is clear is that innovations happening now revolutionise industries – it’s an exciting future for us all.

Professor Harald Haas, director of LiFi Research and Development Centre, Edinburgh University

In a modern world with lots of international competition, innovation is essential.

In LiFi, we have innovated something that we know from our own assessment and external evidence will change the world. In the future, every light will be able to connect everyone and everything to the internet.

Erica Moore, founder and managing director, Eteaket Tea.

Erica Moore, founder and managing director, Eteaket Tea.

This connectivity will form the equivalent of the nervous system of modern data driven economies, which rely on autonomous smart systems.

An innovation off the back of LiFi work is a technology which uses solar panels to provide connectivity to remote areas.

This will provide a remedy, which we continue to innovate at the LiFi R&D centre, for the inequality which disadvantages people who cannot connect to the internet. We set up pureLiFi, which is at the forefront of this industrial revolution. 

We are on a mission to demonstrate LiFi can transform industries, making them ready for the fourth industrial revolution.

Andrew Muir, chief executive, Farrpoint.

Andrew Muir, chief executive, Farrpoint.

Andrew Muir, chief executive, FarrPoint

FarrPoint is a telecoms consultancy and we have just turned ten. The last decade has seen our industry transformed by constant innovation and new technology. Nothing stands still.

The rise of GIS mapping technology and advances in data analytics has revolutionised how we understand the infrastructure underpinning the UK’s telecoms landscape.

Advances in radio technology and 4G (and 5G soon) has meant that we’ve been able to design ways for more people in Scotland to get connected as part of public sector projects, even in areas where there is no fixed broadband access.

The continual innovation in Internet of Things applications has helped us to execute plans for telecare and smart city initiatives all over the nation, capabilities that were in their infancy when we started out.

The last decade has seen technology move at great pace and continue to do so. Scotland is at the forefront of many of these innovations and we are very happy to play a part in it.

Gordon Dewar, chief executive, Edinburgh Airport

We pride ourselves on being one of the most innovative airports in the UK and the world, and we are always looking at new ways of harnessing the evolution in technology to make the journey through the airport easier and as positive as possible.

We are global leaders in the security process, for example. We regularly host teams from other airports across the world who come to Edinburgh and study our process in action with a view to implementing it in their own – we are setting the global standard.

We were the first airport in the UK to introduce a multi-airline bag-drop facility – speeding up the check-in process and allowing customers the chance to spend more time relaxing before their flight. Others have since followed suit so again we set that standard.

Technology is forever evolving and we must evolve with it, stay innovative and deliver what our passengers expect of a 21st century airport.

David Hunter, chief executive and founder of Shot Scope

As a golf technology company, we create innovative products to transform the way golfers play. This requires constant innovation in how we do business.

Everything from our retailer relationships and business models, to our marketing and recruitment, stems from the desire to pursue opportunities that our competitors don’t.

We work directly with retailers, ensuring our customers get the most efficient service possible by cutting out the middle man; before launching V1, our sales team developed a pro-shop business model to maximise accessibility for all golfers and profits for pros; and we focus on digital marketing efforts to reach new and technologically engaged consumers.

When entering a new market, especially an emerging one, it’s easy to fall into industry ruts which suffocate growth and hamper innovation.

Remember how you got here, keep your processes and approaches innovative and drive through the changes that will benefit your business, customers and industry.

Kevin Hanley, director of innovation, Royal Bank of Scotland

We built up a really important relationship with Facebook through our team on the ground in San Francisco, and last year became an early adopter of Facebook at Work – their corporate version of Facebook.

Only 25 companies were allowed to pilot the use of that technology and through our relationship with the team on the West Coast we were one of the companies they wanted to work with on the pilot.

We were the only financial services organisation to pilot it last year and now in 2017 it is a standard method of communication across our business.

The reason why that’s exciting for us is not just about the use of Facebook but we believe it is driving a very different kind of culture across the organisation.

You come together in groups of common interest and people opt into things they want to be part of, and colleagues can ask senior members of the business questions directly through our regular Q&A sessions. The possibilities are only limited by imagination.

Erica Moore, founder and managing director, Eteaket tea

At eteaket tea, we’re consciously innovative in the way we do business. Particularly with some recent tea blends like our Tomatin Whisky Tea, the first barrel aged tea in Europe.

We’ve been trying to create a whisky flavoured tea for years but couldn’t get it quite right. Then we hit on the idea of suspending the tea leaves in used whisky barrels and leaving them to “age” thereby soaking up the aromas of the whisky casks.

It has been a real collaboration and particular thanks has to go to Ronnie our fabricator for working with us to create our top secret suspension apparatus to go inside the barrels.

When we first approached Tomatin Distillery in the Highlands they thought we were mad but they quickly got on board.

We’re glad they did as our blend is proving very popular all over the world from Japan to 
Australia. We’ve got many more exciting ideas to help put tea in Scotland firmly on the map.

Philip Hogg, director of sales and marketing, Cala Homes (East)

For us, innovation provides us with both the inspiration and the ability to transform challenging brownfield sites into award-winning homes for our customers, using the best materials and solutions available.

We pride ourselves in the renovation of land into stunning properties that make the most of their locations. Our recent Edinburgh sites on industrial land, including former quarries, old mills and water treatment works, are great examples of how innovation has changed our business, using creativity to link each new development to the past.

Innovation is what allows us to look at sites that may have been neglected and think of ways that we can restore and add to them, modernising without taking away from the character of the original site.

As a recent example, at our Kinleith Mill development next to the protected Water of Leith, we replaced flood bypass channels with a new sustainable system to treat pollutants and manage surface water, involving a series of attenuation tanks and a hydro break manhole system.

This protects the Water of Leith and its ecology and helped make the site a reality.

Phil Prentice, chief officer, Scotland’s Towns Partnership

Ten years ago most urban regeneration involved teams of architects, economists and planners undertaking lots of manual surveys, making pictures, late nights and big ideas sketched on huge canvasses with crayons.

Jump forward to today and technology and big data are the dominant tools of the trade. Web data, CAD, 3D imaging, mapping, GIS and transport and economic modelling software have replaced pen and paper. However, the creativity still relies on human expertise and knowledge.

When Scotland’s Towns Partnership was asked to assist with the regeneration of Scotland’s towns, we decided to engage these new media. Innovation drives all we do; our “one to many” service required a national web portal, our innovative data platform is a global first – an online typology of all of Scotlands towns, and our training will increasingly use webinar technology.

Understanding Scottish Places – www.usp.scot – provides users with a unique and innovative solution to help inspire improvement across a range of professional and community sectors. Based on solid data, it is simple (and free) to use and to understand, saves time and money and gives folks the best possible start to plan that perfect town.

Callum Sinclair, head of technology, Burness Paull

Artificial intelligence within the legal services sector is still in its infancy, however it’s already having a profound practical effect. 

In the last two years over a dozen viable commercial products have come to market, each offering some degree of autonomous functionality for lawyers.

The capabilities of such products are still developing, however they can generally all replicate some degree of low-level initial review, ‘red flag’ checking, or content summarising tasks.

Such tasks done by hand (or rather, by eye) would typically take hours compared to mere minutes when performed by an AI program.

The knowledge and skill of the lawyer is still essential in interpreting those results and delivering accurate and commercially astute advice, but where AI is making a big impact already is in taking those initial fact-finding steps and allowing the lawyer to focus on the law.

Combine this realignment of focus with the new generation of legal technologists (who are the bridge between the law and tech) and this may well be the biggest shake-up in legal services in a generation.

Olly Dmitriev, chief executive, Vert Rotors

Vert Rotors has invented a new kind of air compressor, which is smaller, cleaner and more efficient than anything else available on the market today.

Industrial compressor design had remained unchanged for decades. There was a need to disrupt the market with something revolutionary.

Vert solved this problem with the invention of a new proprietary conical screw design, with the male rotor revolving inside the female rotor, making it the only miniature screw compressor that reaches high efficiency.

This has allowed Vert Rotors to create a series of highly efficient, clean compressors, smaller than comparable devices on the market today.

Vert’s compressors are already featured in the National Museum of Scotland as examples of recent Scottish innovations.

Chris Roche, chief executive, Aridhia

Aridhia was founded on the principle that in order to bring about real change, a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to innovation is vital to medical research.

Aridhia’s AnalytiXagility cloud-based platform is helping clients across different disciplines and organisations, from pharmaceutical companies to academic clinicians, to pool their knowledge, experience and data.

Advancements in cloud-based technology and data analytics has enabled the execution of collaborative business models and research projects including pre-competitive drugs trials, multi-institution and cross-border data-driven precision medicine initiatives, and integrated healthcare programmes.

This article appears in the AUTUMN 2017 edition of Vision Scotland. An online version is available here. Further information about Vision Scotland here.