Unlocking the golden digital and innovation opportunity

How Highlands & Islands Enterprise is supporting collaboration and innovation through a £465,000 investment programme BY KEVIN O’SULLIVAN

Since publishing its strategic vision in the summer, Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) has committed to a number of digital measures to provide support and collaboration opportunities to the 22,000 businesses and over 1,000 social enterprises that operate in its region. Te economic and community development agency has worked with Scotland’s national innovation centres and fellow agencies to ensure that the latest advice, skills and growth opportunities can be harnessed around potentially transforma- tive technologies, including data innovation, artificial intelligence (AI), sensors and internet of things (IoT), as well as robot- ics and cyber resilience. Tis all follows a £159m investment in digital infrastructure across the region and continued investment in R100, Scotland’s superfast broadband programme, which will provide the foundation on which these next generation industries are being built. In its strategy, HIE has con-

firmed a commitment to provide a single point of online entry as part of a wider transformation to- wards becoming a ‘truly digitally- enabled business support service’ providing rapid, tailored service. Additionally the organisation wants to be able to harness digital

HIE’s David Oxley, pictured centre, with delegates at the HIE digital collaboration event

to boost companies’ access to global markets, which is a key driver in growing the region’s £18bn economy. At the end of September, an

important gathering took place in Inverness to launch a digital col- laboration initiative between some of Scotland’s leading technology organisations and support the region’s businesses on a path to- wards realising those strategic ob- jectives. Te Data Lab, Te Centre for Sensors and Imaging Systems (CENSIS), Scottish Business Resil- ience Centre (SBRC), DigitalBoost (Business Gateway), ScotlandIS, EIT Digital, IoT Scotland and Inter- face all met at HIE’s #hellodigital facility in An Lòchran, Inverness Campus, to lend their support to more than 2,500 businesses across the region which are expected to benefit from a new £465,000 investment programme. David Oxley, HIE director of

business growth, said: “Tis is about helping businesses become more productive, efficient and competitive through increased adoption and use of digital tech- nology. Te investment will also enable us to attract other funding


through more collaboration and partnership initiatives. “Te programme aligns with

digital provision available across HIE, as well as Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise and Te Scot- tish Government. It will focus on the ambitions set out by Te Scot- tish Government Digital Strategy and Enterprise and Skills review for co-creation of programmes, collaboration, simplifying pro- cesses and achieving best value.”

Businesses are signposted to support from the Digital Develop- ment Loan and Cyber Voucher Scheme. Te skills and talent pipe- line is essential to digital economy growth in Scotland and a focus for all organisations represented, in particular the University of the Highlands and Islands, Science Skills Academy, Newton Rooms and CodeClan. Also announced was the creation of a new Digital Economy Programme Board and Industry Advisory Group for the Highlands and Islands. New collaboration meanwhile will include cybersecurity events and support for rural businesses across the Highlands and Islands. Tis

involves the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC), National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and Police Scotland, and is supported by Te Scottish Government Cyber Resilience Unit. Te digital and innovation sup-

port programme investment by HIE is in addition to the agency’s wider support for technology and innovation running until 2023. Tis includes HIE’s current investment in Phase 2 of Te Data Lab Innovation Centre (which has located its fourth Scottish hub at Inverness Campus), CENSIS and Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) – a total investment of £1.25m over 5 years. l

An Lòchran events: Thursday 5 December 5-7.30pm. Highlands Data Meet-up. Tuesday 26 November/Tuesday 10 December/Tuesday January 21. Getting started with IoT drop-in surgery: working with CENSIS IoT developer kit. Monday 9 December. Christmas Cyber Lecture. Email:

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