Rachel Wallace is part of the team powering the Scotland CAN DO initiative, joining the dots between partners and helping make Scotland a world-leader in entrepreneurship and innovation, where business is a force for good. She tells us how workplace culture can define the success of businesses of all sizes and where the biggest opportunities for innovation are.
What’s your day job?
I’m part of a dedicated team coordinating the people that power the Scotland CAN DO initiative, a collective approach to accelerate entrepreneurship and innovation across Scotland. My role is extremely varied and fast-paced, which I love! I have the pleasure of coordinating and showcasing the network of Scotland CAN DO partners also known as the CAN DO Collective. I help facilitate opportunities for them to connect, collaborate and create impact together! The CAN DO Collective is richly diverse and highly collaborative community, made up of representatives from support agencies and organisations who are passionate about building ‘a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative society’. I help to join the dots between partners and build the CAN DO brand.
What’s your role in VentureFest 2019?
VentureFest is a focal point in driving Scotland’s ambition to be a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative society and by its very nature is championing and embodying the CAN DO approach! The CAN DO team is supporting the overall direction of VentureFest in the context of developing Scotland’s wider entrepreneurial support events calendar. As custodians of the CAN DO brand, we’re on hand to support the development of key messages and will be working to celebrate and amplify VentureFest partners’ events across our communications channels. We’re also working to connect the dots across ecosystem actors to support the smooth delivery of the CAN DO Innovation Summit in November 2019, which is set to be a corker!
Why is fostering a culture of discovery, innovation & enlightened entrepreneurship so important for Scottish SMEs and for society as a whole?
Fostering this type of culture will help Scotland to realise its potential as a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovation-driven economy, where business is a force for good. I think that entrepreneurship and innovation are two sides of the same coin and together are known to create businesses capable of capturing great value and delivering significant economic and social impact.
In your opinion, what is the most exciting development in Scottish innovation in the past five years?
Being a Glasgow girl, I am really excited about the Glasgow City Innovation District – a hub for entrepreneurship, innovation and lots of collaboration! There is so much talent all over our city and the City Innovation District has the infrastructure as well as entrepreneurial support community to help businesses grow. It’s a wonderful example of CAN DO in action!
What three key assets make Scotland a distinctive and world-class place to invest in innovation?
Our people – Scotland continues to be a place of great talent, inclusivity and creativity.
Our adaptability – Scottish businesses are known across the world for their ability to adapt in difficult circumstances and come out the other side stronger and better off, continuing to innovate their products and services.
Our partnerships – The collaborative nature of corporate organisations and academic institutions in particular is on the rise, enabling shared resources and expertise in order to make a real impact!
What impact does the culture of an SME have on its ability to innovate?
Culture can define the performance and success of businesses of all sizes. Without your team coming into the workplace happy and motivated, success and sustainability may fall by the wayside. Innovation often takes place where individuals feel the most comfortable and creative, if you implement an open and positive culture from the start, talented individuals will join you and stay!
Looking to the future, what technology challenges and opportunities do SMEs face?
This covers both technological and traditional challenges, but acquiring the right talent and where to find people is proving more and more difficult for businesses. Some of the biggest innovation opportunities I think we have at the moment are in low carbon innovation, healthy ageing and maximising the opportunities of automation and AI.
Who is ‘one to watch’ in innovation in Scotland?
Fresh from additional investment and their announcement of further high value roles in Scotland, I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Care Sourcer. Their use of technology in connecting care seekers with care providers acts as a catalyst and inspiration for other businesses across the country.
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?
Entrepreneur – Laura Ashley, fashion designer and co-founder of the British textile design company.
Innovator – Maria Beasley, best known for her barrel-making machines and improvements to the life raft.
Creative – Nick Park, creator of Wallace & Gromit, Creature Comforts and Shaun the Sheep.