Frank O'Donnell: We must invent the way ahead

Innovation is the latest buzzword in business. It's the umbrella term under which other words of the moment '“ fintech, AI, LiFi '“ fall. Everyone, it seems, is doing it, whether they're looking at ways of maximising profit, rethinking the structure within their organisation, or bringing a new product to market.

The Autumn 2017 edition of Vision Scotland.
The Autumn 2017 edition of Vision Scotland.
The Autumn 2017 edition of Vision Scotland.

Innovation in Scotland however is nothing new. This is the nation that bore the telephone, the television and has led the way in both genetic and structural engineering.

It’s home to the world’s first rotating boat lift, the Falkirk Wheel, but more recently the Queensferry Crossing has been generating the buzz. With three towers at 207 metres each and at 2.7km long, the breathtaking structure is the longest triple tower cable-stayed bridge in the world; and it’s right on our doorstep.

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Looking at it, the structure is impressive, and it’s worth taking a minute to think about its clever construction.

Over the course of its 200 years, The Scotsman has embraced its fair share of innovation. In recent years, this newspaper has taken advantage of opportunities presented by the digital age.

Two years ago this month we launched the new Scotsman website and now reguarly broadcast live via Facebook and we are constantly looking at ways to keep our online content engaging and ahead of the curve.

But as is so often the case, it is the small innovations – many of which go unnoticed by those who are not directly involved in delivering them – that help businesses to grow and to stand out.

In 1872, The Scotsman was the first publication to run a special morning newspaper train. Others would quickly follow suit.

In 1961, our editorial staff were the first to use a Monarch, the world’s fastest hot metal typecasting machine, which was the height of technology at the time.

In most businesses, innovation goes on behind the scenes, but the end result is worth the hard work.

In this edition of Vision Scotland, our writers look at some of the many ways in which Scotland’s businesses are innovating today, from the work of the Scottish Government’s eight Innovation Centres which span sectors from healthcare to construction, to the efforts that are going into transforming the retail landscape in town centres.

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In our Vision Voices feature, leading Scottish businesses share their stories of how innovation has changed the way they operate. and we take a look back at how Scotland’s history of invention has shaped what is happening today.

A strong reputation for medical education and notable discoveries has laid the foundations for current developments in life sciences, as delegates of The Scotsman’s Life Sciences conference will discuss next month.

Scotland’s creative streak certainly isn’t a thing of the past. Businesses, public bodies and forward-thinking entrepreneurs continue to come up with innovations and inventions, with support available from an ever-growing list of incubators, accelerators and funds.

The message is clear: we need to keep looking for new ways of doing things, designing new products and dreaming up bright ideas. If we don’t, we are in danger of falling behind as everyone else moves forward.

Frank O’Donnell is editorial director at The Scotsman.

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