Giving small businesses access to cutting-edge research, skills and technology, creating better conditions for them to make their mark in foreign markets and supporting those who want to grow off the scale

Knowledge and Expertise
We will continue to help small businesses connect to academia and tap into the latest knowledge and technology, helping them boost their productivity, competiveness and growth. We do this by helping fund Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and our own Interface through the Scottish Funding Council.

Our investment in Innovation Centres allows small businesses to capitalise on newly-identified opportunities or improve existing ideas in high-value sectors. Further support will also be available with the creation of the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland which will create a centre of know-how and shared resources which small businesses will be able to access.

And we’re funding Scottish universities through the University Innovation Fund to reach out to businesses and increase the impact of academic research.

Opportunities to Innovate
By actively encouraging small businesses to solve public sector challenges, we are helping them bring new ideas to life with the CAN DO Innovation Challenge Fund. CivTech® is partly funded from this and is the world’s first cross-public sector tech accelerator, providing the opportunity to propose and develop solutions to specific problems. Public and private sector opportunities can also be accessed through Open Innovation Challenges.

Digital Support
We are working closely with partners to equip small businesses with the technology to thrive in the modern digital economy. The national DigitalBoost programme, delivered by Business Gateway will continue to provide digital skills-focused advice and support.

The Digital Development Loan, the first investment of the £36 million Digital Growth Fund, builds on this by offering interest free loans of between £5,000 and £100,000 to help SMEs invest in digital capabilities, processes, skills and capacity.

A further investment of £500k has been made by HIE towards continued support for up to 2,500 businesses through a Digital Technology and Innovation programme from 2020 – 2024. In addition, a Data Lab Hub has been established in Inverness to serve the region with a focus on collaborative innovation projects, data skills and talent development and community building.

Other support comes through the Digital Excellence Centre in Inverness, #HelloDigital, designed to raise awareness of the benefits of digital technology and work led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise to roll out next generation broadband across the region. They offer a diverse range of targeted programmes related to tourism and cyber resilience.

A new Digital Start Fund of £1m, launched in May 2019, will provide for the purpose of a more inclusive fund to support those facing barriers such as being out of work and those on low incomes seeking to train in digital skills.

Export Growth Plan
Small businesses can take advantage of our £20 million investment to increase Scotland’s exports. Available to businesses of all sizes, the 3 year Export Growth Plan is delivering intensive support to 50 high growth exporting businesses per year, creating 100 business-to-business mentorships per year to new exporters, further expanding the network of in-market specialist and increasing access to export finance.

More Opportunities to Export
More opportunities are being created for all businesses in Scotland to export. We have funded the Scottish chambers of commerce network to deliver a 3 year programme of inward and outward missions aimed specifically at small businesses, created trade envoys to champion export opportunities from home and to identify new opportunities and markets abroad, and created a growing network of Innovation and Investment Hubs which cover Dublin, London, Berlin, Brussels and Paris.

Scottish Development International
Scottish Development International provide dedicated export advice and support to businesses of all sizes. This includes market research, its Export Advisory Service offering one to one support for those looking to scale up their exports, market intelligence and networks within different regions, grants to new exporters and a range of online resources.

Prepare for Brexit
We are supporting the multi-agency campaign to help Scotland’s businesses face the challenges of the UK’s exit from the European Union. Prepare for Brexit provides businesses with access to export advisers to create a Brexit-focused action plan, grants of £4000 to identify specific Brexit-related international issues, online learning opportunities, skills workshops, networking events and market research support.

Support to Grow Rapidly
Scottish Enterprise’s Start2Scale Service provides a dedicated service which focuses on supporting ambitious growth-driven businesses in a closely integrated way across the stages of the scale up journey. It is for highly ambitious, innovative early stage businesses with significant potential to grow sales quickly, typically 20% per annum to excess of £10m in 3-10 years and for more established businesses which are Scottish owned or with strategic direction from within Scotland, currently achieving £10m+ turnover with the ambition and potential to grow to £50m-£100m and beyond within 3-5 years

Entrepreneurial Scotland facilitate the CAN DO Scale Movement, a network of public and private sector organisations working with businesses to grow at pace. This is open to small businesses and includes the SCALE Summer School, an intensive course with top international educators, and the 18 month Scale Up Scotland programme delivered by leading entrepreneurs.

Digital Tourism Scotland
Along with our visitor economy agencies, we supported Digital Tourism Scotland, a £1.2 million, 3 year public and private sector partnership project, which ran until 2019. This aimed to improve the digital skills and capabilities of tourism businesses. Through our new Tourism Strategy Framework, launched in October 2019, we will continue to support our diverse tourism businesses, helping them to embrace innovation and technology to support better visitor experiences and to adopt the use of new business models to increase their competitiveness.

Key resources:

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships


Innovation Centres

National Manufacturing Institute Scotland

CAN DO Innovation Challenge Fund


Open Innovation Challenges

Digital Boost

Digital Development Loan

Digital Support for Businesses

Scottish Government: International Trade Policy

Support for Businesses to Export

Prepare for Brexit Toolkit

Scottish Enterprise Scaling Support

CAN DO Scale

Find Business Support