Dominic Dowling, Glasgow City Council economic development manager, believes Scotland’s best asset is its people. Between our talented and diverse population, institutions and existing culture of innovation, there is huge potential for growth. In today’s blog, Dominic shares how SMEs are challenging old-fashioned work practices, tackling gender bias and engaging with a new generation of talent.
What’s your day job?
I’m an Economic Development Manager at Glasgow City Council. I lead the Economic Development Project Team, which supports a number of developments like Glasgow’s Innovation Districts, the Glasgow Partnership for Economic Growth and, of course, VentureFest. We are also coordinating the refresh of the Glasgow Economic Strategy and support the development of the city’s Digital Economy.
What’s your role in VentureFest 2019?
My team is feeding into the overall direction of VentureFest, as well as helping to develop feeder events which are relevant to Glasgow’s entrepreneurs and start up scene. VentureFest’s values complement the aims of our economic strategy, so it’s natural that we are playing a central role in its delivery.
Why is fostering a culture of discovery, innovation & enlightened entrepreneurship so important for Scottish SMEs and for society as a whole?
If we increase productivity, then we can begin to tackle the wider socio economic challenges society faces. There remains a scandalous level of inequality in Scotland and this has a crippling effect on productivity, amongst a myriad of other socio-economic problems. Creating a culture of discovery and entrepreneurship, coupled with genuine opportunities, will help tackle this. Raising productivity is not a zero sum game, but one which has an exponentially positive impact for individuals, businesses and society as a whole.
In your opinion, was is the most exciting development in Scottish innovation in the past five years?
The development of Glasgow’s two Innovation Districts has been particularly exciting. These projects will build upon existing work in the academic and innovation spheres, but also bring massive regeneration potential in communities across the city.
What three key assets make Scotland a distinctive and world-class place to invest in innovation?
Without doubt, our greatest asset is our people and Scotland is a talented and increasingly diverse country. Glasgow is also home to world class academic institutions who are developing fruitful relationships with policy makers like Glasgow City Council. Finally, Scotland already has a thriving culture of innovation and collaboration. Between our people, our institutions and existing innovation culture, there is huge potential for growth.
What impact does the culture of an SME have on its ability to innovate?
Increasingly, entrepreneurs and SMEs are taking a more collaborative and open approach to developing their ideas. They are also challenging the tired and staid work practices of old and are engaging with a new generation of talent. For example, flexible working patterns help tackle ingrained gender biases which make the traditional workplace a more difficult environment for women.
The modern SME seeks an environment where workers can do their jobs, enjoy a meal, go to the shops or visit the gym, all within a compact radius of the office. The Business Park model and its dreary, grey connotations is dead; the future generation of SMEs is embracing cities and the facilities they are home to.
Who is ‘one to watch’ in innovation in Scotland?
I would keep an eye on the businesses emerging from Glasgow’s Tontine facility; Haelo Consulting and Trade in Space are two businesses who I am sure will find much success in the future.
And finally… you’re having a dinner party and you have to invite an entrepreneur, an innovator and a creative, dead or alive. Who are your three guests?
The entrepreneur I’d like to invite is Bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto. A significant part of my interest in Nakamoto is the accompanying cloud of secrecy; does he/she even really exist? Irrespective, Satoshi Nakamoto – whomever he, she or they are – has had a profound and lasting impact on the modern world and the way we spend money, register transactions and protect data.
My innovator is Marie Curie, whose brilliant mind and compassion for others drove her to overcome personal tragedy and a male-dominated world of science, to deliver a range of world changing technologies. Marie Curie was also a precursor to Open Innovation and cooperation, long before it was the trendy thing to do.
My creative guest would be the late Frank Zappa. Of all the music I’ve listened to, I’ve not encountered an artist as spectacularly leftfield and imaginative. Also, his output wasn’t just musical; Frank also embraced the developing world of video and even found time to disrupt the stuffy world of politics. I’d be intrigued to see what he’d think of my dinner party playlist.