Innovation Strategies


Linking key players together to deliver innovation

Julie Fitzpatrick

Professor Julie Fitzpatrick OBE FRSE is the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) for Scotland. She also remains Scientific Director of Moredun Research Institute and CEO of The Moredun Foundation. She holds a Chair in Food Security at the University of Glasgow’s College of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences. Julie became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2007, a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society of Scotland in 2008 and was awarded an OBE for services to livestock research in 2014.


  • Scotland’s aim is to be one of the most innovative small nations in the world
  • R&D is a main focus for direct foreign investment
  • Life sciences and building business capacity at scale is a priority
  • The public sector’s role in innovation is vital
  • Collaboration and speed of adoption are key to successful innovation.

In my role as Chief Scientific Adviser, I focus on three main areas: first, science, evidence and data for all policy areas, especially in cross-cutting and strategic issues; second, Policy for Science, particularly relating to the science and engineering profession within Government where I act as science and innovation champion; and finally there is public engagement, promoting Scotland’s science excellence among the public.

Our vision for Scotland is to become one of the most innovative small nations in the world. Our ambition is to boost innovation, productivity, competitiveness and green economic growth. Clearly research excellence is vital in driving innovation across the nation. And we know that industry investment in Scotland is closely linked to our universities’ strengths. R&D is the third largest focus of foreign direct investment. Sustained investment into research, development and innovation is critical, as exemplified by the ‘triple helix’ of government, academic institutions and industry working together. These are the essential elements of the Scottish innovation system.

World-leading scientists

We have world-leading scientists. The 2021 Nobel Prize for chemistry went to David MacMillan of Princeton University who completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Glasgow. Scotland has a very long history as a nation of invention and we will engage in new opportunities for innovation, such as that provided by the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA).

When it comes to innovative businesses, we have institutions such as the University of Dundee, which was the top-ranked university for Biological Sciences in the REF 21, based on three- and four-star publications. It is the location of the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives and has a world-famous drug discovery unit. It has close links with, and attracts substantial funding from, multiple pharma and biotech companies. The university is developing a Life Sciences Innovation District as part of the Tay Cities Biomedical Cluster and City Deal.

An important focus for Scotland is attracting and retaining innovative scientists, as well as building life science companies of scale. It is really important that we retain these scientists, rather than them moving to other parts of the UK, or to the United States.


The Centre for Energy Transition at the University of Aberdeen is working on wind power, hydrogen, geothermal, wave and tidal, and oil and gas decommissioning: all different scientific disciplines important for energy transition. It includes the GeoNetZero Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT), a partnership between 12 UK academic institutions. This has attracted investment in training from more than 10 industry partners. The doctoral training programme currently has 178 PhDs enrolled. Of the 75 who have already completed their studies, all found employment within the sector.

This is a fantastic achievement, demonstrating the scope and scale that is required in order to produce innovative scientists in the future. The Centre for Energy Transition also hosts the National Energy Skills Escalator, a collaboration between universities, colleges and Skills Development Scotland.

The public sector’s role in innovation is vital. As part of our National Performance Framework, we have a number of key elements, including an entrepreneurial economy, a talented, skilled workforce, as well as innovative businesses. All of these are essential to delivering our National Strategy for Economic Transformation, for delivering Net Zero, reducing inequalities and poverty, and recovering from the cost of living crisis. In the Scottish Government, we have over 600 directly-employed scientists producing some fantastic science and innovation, which will help us to deliver the strategies.

David MacMillan of Princeton University, who was awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize for chemistry, completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Glasgow. 

 One such example is Marine Scotland which covers a number of areas including fisheries, aquaculture and environment, but also new research and ideas. It focusses on science related to offshore wind, marine ecosystems, including the use of environmental DNA, and diseases of aquatic species. The quality of the marine science is extremely important for all activities and outputs such as surveillance, monitoring, regulation and policy development.

Scotland is also fortunate to have a good number of Institutes collectively called SEFARI. These are Scottish environment, food and agricultural research institutes and their focus on strategic policy focussed research is important for the delivery of useful science and knowledge exchange.

Another important aspect of Scotland’s innovation infrastructure is our network of seven innovation centres created in 2012, which includes the Scottish Agriculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), CENSIS and the Data Lab to name a few. They support sectors with strong research potential, they build strong links and provide co-funding for research along with industry.

Health and social care

When it comes to delivering innovation, I want to give an example from health and social care. There is broad agreement that the pressures and challenges currently facing health and social care may only be addressed if outcome-improving, experience-enhancing and value-adding innovations can be rapidly identified and adopted. Radical, perhaps even disruptive, innovation at scale has become a necessity, not a luxury.

And the challenge is that we have lots of activity in this area in Scotland but currently this is rather uncoordinated with many players, so there are huge opportunities to increase momentum. Three regional testbeds have been set up in the Northeast and West of the country. Public sector assets

are used by industry to test their innovations in situ. With over £3.5 million invested in these testbeds, they are not just for pharma, but also medtech (particularly medical devices) and digital including AI and machine learning. This links back to the triple helix, bringing together government, academic researchers and industry. This initiative acts as a one-stop-shop for industry wanting to test innovations.

There is continued investment in the Accelerated National Innovation Adoption Pathway (ANIA). All of the main health organisations within Scotland are working together. The aim is to collaborate in: procurement, research capacity, alignment with digital programmes, testing new innovations, baselining data and workforce development. So the key point here is the collaboration and speed of adoption of new technologies across our health and welfare sector.

I work not just with Scottish Government, but also UK Government scientists. With a new strategy being developed in Scotland, we interact with UKRI and Innovate UK about the importance of funding to enhance R&D and innovation in Scotland. The UK Chief Scientific Advisers (CSA) network meets weekly and I speak regularly to other CSAs across the other devolved administrations. Our discussions often focus on the importance of innovation to all of us across all parts of the UK.