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Manufacturing for the future: Scotland’s innovation renaissance

We’re fond of saying that Scotland is a nation of innovators. 

Iain Gulland | 24 Jul 17

And through its circular economy ambitions, new ideas and processes are gaining a momentum worthy of the country’s pioneering heritage.

The roll call of Scots ‘inventors’ who famously changed the world through their vision range from steam engine pioneer James Watt to John Logie Baird, one of the inventors of the television; and even Alan McMaster, who brought us an early version of the pop-up toaster.

Our circular economy vision represents a potential ‘innovation renaissance’ – and Scotland is already gaining prestigious worldwide recognition for its achievements along the way.

Innovation is key – and new technology and ideas that generate more sustainable, resilient ways of working are nowhere more applicable than to the manufacturing industry.

That’s why manufacturing businesses with ideas for transformational projects are being urged to apply for up to £1 million in grant funding, available from the Circular Economy Investment Fund to help them unlock new opportunities and be part of Scotland’s circular economy revolution.

We’ve identified manufacturing as a key sector with the greatest opportunity to deliver circular economy benefits for Scotland. It’s an area where circular economy ideas can make a real difference, fast-tracking Scotland towards the manufacturing landscape of the future – and generating competitive growth opportunities for individual businesses.

The circular economy is about finding ways to keep products and materials circulating around the economy for as long as possible – through smarter design, remanufacturing and reprocessing to create new products from old, and repairing what we can.

Research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, together with Zero Waste Scotland and Scottish Enterprise, indicates it’s a trillion-dollar opportunity globally, and action across manufacturing sub-sectors (such as motor vehicles and electronics) could generate up to £1.5 billion in cost savings for Scotland alone.

Zero Waste Scotland has already successfully supported several businesses to develop manufactured circular economy products that are innovative, exciting, and represent some of Scotland’s most traditional industries. Developed by geotechnical engineers at Heriot Watt University, Kenoteq has patented a brick made without raw materials – instead consisting of 90% construction and demolition site waste. Meanwhile kilt-maker Diggory Brown has created a collection of ‘Synergy’ tweeds using cloth woven from wool waste.

We need to support high-value sectors such as aerospace, automotive, electronics, engineering and the medical device industries to truly disrupt the current ‘take, make, dispose’ linear economic model with revolutionary new processes. It’s vital in order to drive Scotland towards the sustainable future we all want to see.

Scotland is known the world over for the things we make and has a proud legacy of ground-breaking Scots. The circular economy is an opportunity to put real blue-sky thinking into practice; to build on that history and create something that will change the future.

The £18 million Circular Economy Investment Fund, administered by Zero Waste Scotland, offers investment for SMEs based in Scotland and supports work that will deliver circular economy growth. It’s backed by funds from the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

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