News Press Releases

Entrepreneurial organisations meet Economy Secretary to discuss roll out of Scottish Government’s economic strategy

Economy Secretary, Kate Forbes MSP met members of the Can Do Collective this morning to discuss the roll out and adoption of the recently launched National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET).

The group identified areas of common ground within the Entrepreneurial People and Culture Programme of Action, where ecosystem partners and government can work together; they discussed what obstacles need to be cleared to allow for better collaboration and how the ecosystem can support this.

The Can Do Collective, funded by the Scottish Government is an all-sector approach to enterprise and innovation support; the group of more than 80 organisations aims to create powerful societal and economic change in Scotland by putting collaboration and community at the heart of all activity.

Today’s meeting with the Cabinet Secretary is the first of many planned activities by the collective, including round tables, leadership training and events which will focus on garnering widespread support and adoption of the economic strategy across all parts of Scotland’s business community.

Commenting on the first stakeholder meeting since the launch of the strategy, Sean McGrath, Chief Executive Officer of Entrepreneurial Scotland said:

“This is an ambitious strategy built around innovation, inclusivity, and entrepreneurship and if we make this work, it has the power to transform our economy.  The Scottish Government cannot do it alone; we certainly cannot do it without them.

“We need the First Minister now to use her platform and profile to promote Scotland’s business to the world. We also need her to show the same leadership that saw us through the Covid crisis to now put the full weight of her government behind the transformation of our economy placing business success at the top of the Scottish Government’s agenda.

“Scotland has huge potential – talent and people are at the heart of what is now the 4th Industrial Revolution; this is a pivotal moment and key opportunity for Scotland’s organisations to change with the times and look at more innovative, sustainable ways of growth, driven and underpinned by an entrepreneurial mindset.”

Finance & Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said:

“Scotland has enormous economic potential and one of the key transformational programmes of NSET is to establish Scotland as a world-class entrepreneurial nation, with a culture that encourages, promotes, and celebrates entrepreneurial activity in every sector of our economy.

“It was great to meet with members of the Can Do Collective to share ideas, perspectives and experiences on the best way of delivering our ambition so we can shift the dial to make our economy fairer, wealthier, and greener.

“This is a national endeavour that requires every one of us to contribute, and continue working together over the next decade.”

Hazel Jane, Convener of the Can Do Collective said:

“This morning’s meeting was a important milestone for us in terms of updating the Cabinet Secretary on the scale of the work our organisations are delivering as a group in line with the government’s economic strategy.  It also gave us the opportunity to learn more about the Scottish Government’s plans for wider engagement with NSET across Scotland’s business community.  Much work is to be done; the Can Do Collective will host a wider forum this Spring with more of its partners and the Economy Secretary to explore further opportunities to deliver the vision and objectives of NSET.


Written by Mhairi Clarke

For media enquiries, please contact:

Mhairi Clarke
Director, Shine PR
Tel: 07809 558 375

News Press Releases

Can Do Collective Elects Hazel Jane as their New Convener

The Can Do Collective – a connected community of enterprise support organisations and leaders on a mission to build a world-leading entrepreneurial, innovative and creative society – has today announced the election of Hazel Jane – Entrepreneur Engagement Manager for Tech Nation – as their new convener.  

Elected every two years, the Can Do Collective conveners’ role is to drive momentum for the Can Do Movement across Scotland, building on its reputation as a beacon globally in entrepreneurial eco-systems and supporting the growth of this powerful community of inspiring entrepreneurial leaders, who in turn deliver impact for Scotland.

Entrepreneur Engagement Manager for Tech Nation will harness her global expertise to drive the Collective forward to help build Scotland’s future.

Hazel Jane comments,

“As an entrepreneur engagement manager for Tech Nation covering all of Scotland, my primary role is very much speaking with founders, stakeholders and government as well as liaising with my colleagues across the rest of the UK, to understand what our eco-system looks like on a UK landscape and how we can be doing better, and how we can thrive. It is exactly these insights and experiences that I intend to bring to the Collective so that we can continue to support our business community to thrive here.”

Founded upon a shared belief that Scotland has always been a ‘Can Do’ nation, the aim of the community today is to work together to enable entrepreneurs of all kinds to flourish and to prove that by working collaboratively they can increase the odds of success.

Hazel continues,

“I am fully committed to genuinely helping with the issues that we are facing in Scotland and the rest of the UK right now. Brexit, in particular, has hit businesses in ways that we didn’t imagine. This is something that we, as entrepreneur support organisations will have to think about and hopefully share a lot of knowledge around.

“With regards to the pandemic, I think that there are still a lot of unknowns, and it’s really important to touch on the fact that these challenges aren’t just financial – there is an immense amount of change for business owners and entrepreneurs, who are leading their employees into a world that we don’t yet understand. Successful business recovery in a post-pandemic era is also going to require a new world of working and I hope that we will be front runners, leading by example.”

Concluding, Hazel Jane comments,

“I believe that the role of the Collective is to share genuine best practise and support one another to get behind movements. For me, this is about being able to reach a huge group of companies that work to drive entrepreneurship and, supporting them with information and advice that will help to drive change and growth from within. Everything that the eco-system is doing is for the greater good of all entrepreneurship in Scotland.

The Can Do Collective is funded by The Scottish Government and supported by a dedicated team within the independent charity Entrepreneurial Scotland Foundation. Made up of over 70 public, private and social enterprise support organisations from across all corners of Scotland, The Collective community represents 16 industry sectors. 

Case Studies News

Can Do Collective Celebrates Resilient Business Pioneers of 2020

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on businesses across Scotland. For many it has meant they have had to evolve and adapt their products and services, and support for their wider business community, in new and different ways.

For the Can Do Collective, it has meant taking all of their events online, however an online and virtual approach has allowed the Collective to increase their events programme from five events in 2019, to more than 33 virtual events and gatherings in 2020. They are also concluding the year celebrating a 25 per cent increase in community size.

Rachael Brown, Can Do Collective Convener and CEO, The Future Economy Company explains;

“We’ve seen many examples of how the Scottish business community has stepped up to provide a flexible, fast and appropriate response to individuals in need this year.  Business support communities have removed subscriptions and paywalls, more events and conferences have moved online and there has been a marked increase in the frequency of events.

“In times like these, community and peer to peer support is so vital.  Now more than ever, there’s an opportunity for businesses to really show their human side, to come together in trust and credibility.  We’ve been truly encouraged by the sense of community spirit, entrepreneurialism, agility and creativity we’ve witnessed and the willing to work collaboratively for the greater good.”

A number of businesses have shown great strength, resilience, agility and entrepreneurial spirit in the face of Covid-19 and have continued to support their respective business communities in challenging times.  One of the virtual events that the Can Do Collective has initiated as part of their new virtual events programme, is the Partner Spotlight webinar series, which has seen business leaders from around Scotland share their leadership journey and advice for drawing on community, creativity and resilience.  Here, some of them share their journey through 2020.

Social Investment Scotland:

One of those leaders is Alastair Davis, Chief Executive of Social Investment Scotland (SIS) – the leading social enterprise whose aim is to help social enterprises to scale and grow their business.  He explains;

“The global pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way we all work.  Back in March, there was a realisation that Covid-19 was going to have a significant impact.  So as a team, we quickly started to think about ways to support our community.  We wanted to go out to them and say, ‘we’re here to support you’.  Organisations really appreciated that proactive, calm approach.  We were there from the start offering help, support and advice.  I’m really proud of that, and indeed the ways it has continued throughout the rest of this year.

“This year’s events have also shown us the energy that can be created when you work quickly, collaboratively, and responsively.  It has actually driven us to accelerate many of our plans and strategies, and we have been able to design, develop and launch things really quickly.  That’s certainly something I’d like to hold onto as we look post pandemic.

“It’s also taught us the value of investing in relationships and collaborations.  It’s so important to build communities like that created by the Can Do Collective that are supportive, curious and helpful.  Now more than ever, trust, credibility and collaboration are vital and will allow us to bounce back post pandemic, in whatever way that means for different businesses.”


Interface is an organisation that connects businesses with academics.  Dr Siobhán Jordan, Director, of Interface, explains the ways they have adapted to support their community through the global pandemic;

“A huge part of our work is about keeping in touch with businesses to understand the difference we are making, and the ways in which we can continue to support them further.  

“That put us in a strong position to be able to proactively support our community.  We were immediately helping to address challenges faced by the businesses we work with.  Many of them had to look at adapting their existing products, and many had to look at creating new products.  

“Proactive but empathetic has been our approach in helping businesses navigate through the pandemic, and also look ahead to recovery and green shoots.

“We’ve also been hugely excited about some of the new things we’ve been able to do.  For example, we’ve developed a campaign around ‘Adopt a business’.  We asked our academic community about ways they could help the tourism and hospitality industry, practically, as they start to think about  restarting and recovery.  We were overwhelmed by the interest from universities to offer practical help.  Working with VisitScotland and Scottish Tourism Alliance , we then had over 80 businesses keen to work with academia.  It’s a programme we’ve been able to launch and establish really rapidly but has also been brand new for us.

“We know the next few months are not going to be easy, but collectively, we in Scotland have an opportunity to come together to bring energy to the economic recovery and ensure we continue to build networks to nurture and support.  Support groups and organisations like the Can Do Collective are vital for us all to continue to seek knowledge, ask for help from others, and support one another.”

Scottish Edge:

A business that has been involved with the Can Do Collective since its inception, Evelyn McDonald, Chief Executive of Scottish Edge, The UK’s Biggest Business Funding Competition discusses ways in which their business has had to shift and evolve;

“I’ll admit, I found the initial few weeks after lockdown began in March, extremely challenging.  We had launched a competition at the end of January, and at the beginning, we kept going.  But there came a point when I had to make the difficult decision that we couldn’t continue.  Matched with the challenges all small businesses have had this year – having to put a couple of our team on furlough and having to cut costs and plan for the worst – it was pretty painful.

“But once we’d made the decision to pause the competition and focus on our 335 alumni of businesses, we knew immediately it was the right thing to do.  We’re really lucky to work with people who have great ideas, right at the early stages of their business and we became very focussed on providing support to those business, with a specific focus for those who have loans with us. We’ve been supporting with information on grants and loans, events, training, as well as peer to peer mentoring.  The great thing for us is the feedback we’ve had from our community.  We will hopefully come out of this with a stronger, more connected group of businesses.

“We’ve now announced our next competition, which we’re all incredibly invigorated by – it’s lovely to be looking forward to the next round which we will be launching in July and we will be inviting those previous applicants back and also opening to new ones.  The competition round subsequently attracted 327 applications, the largest number to date.

 “What’s been truly valuable throughout is the support from the wider Can Do Collective network.  We know there are a lot of willing hands and willing hearts out there to help us. A trusted network and group of people that are open to collaboration is what can help us all recover and look forward to 2021 with renewed energy.”

News Press Releases

Can Do Collective Seeks New Convener to Help Build Scotland’s Future

The Can Do Collective – a connected community of enterprise support organisations and leaders on a mission to build a world-leading entrepreneurial, innovative and creative society – has announced it has opened applications and nominations as it seeks to elect a new convener.

Elected every two years, a new Can Do Collective convener will take up the role in February 2021 and will drive momentum for the Can Do Movement across Scotland, building on its reputation as a beacon globally in entrepreneurial eco-systems and supporting the growth of this powerful community of inspiring entrepreneurial leaders who in turn deliver impact for Scotland.

The Can Do Collective are seeking a convener who demonstrates a supportive, flexible and strong sense of leadership, community and collaboration, and above all, an ability to bring people on the exciting and inspiring journey ahead for the Can Do Collective and for Scotland.

Rachael Brown, current Can Do Collective Convener and CEO, The Future Economy Company explains;

“Two years ago I took on the role of convener, knowing we had a big journey ahead of us. In that time, the world around us has changed, and more than ever we need strong, entrepreneurial, fast leadership. The Collective is testimony that a collective approach to impact and activity is possible and exactly what we need in a time of challenge. As we go forward, I would hope that Scotland continues to be a beacon for entrepreneurial spirit.

“It’s been an absolute privilege to be in the role of convener for the Can Do Collective over the past two years. This is a role that is hugely important, and The Can Do Collective is a powerful economic and societal asset for Scotland. I have every confidence that we will find the right person who will continue to drive the Collective forward.”

The Can Do Collective is funded by The Scottish Government and supported by a dedicated team within independent charity Entrepreneurial Scotland Foundation. Made up of over 60 public, private and social enterprise support organisations from across all corners of Scotland, The Collective community represents 16 industry sectors.

Founded upon a shared belief that Scotland has always been a ‘Can Do’ nation, the aim of the community today is to work together to enable entrepreneurs of all kinds to flourish, and to prove there is greater power and success in working collaboratively.

The application process for the role of convener is open to all partners of the Can Do Collective. The closing date for applications is Friday 4th December, and the new convener will begin their role in February 2021.

Case Studies News

AAI And Scottish EDGE Join Forces To Deliver Tailored Employment Opportunities for Scottish Entrepreneurs

Scottish EDGE, AAI and Triyit

Can Do Collective speak with Jack Proctor, Marketing & Comms Manager at Scottish EDGE and Nick Murray, Marketing and Partnership Lead for AAI to find out more about why collective impact was so important for the success of placing a Partnership Manager into the Triyit team.

Scottish EDGE and AAI EmployAbility have been in collaboration since EDGE formed in 2014 – with AAI supporting the hire of their first-ever team member. Since then, AAI has joined EDGE as a Business Growth Support Partner, offering tailored employment support for EDGE finalists.


Scottish EDGE looks to offer its winners an all-encompassing level of support which expands beyond the initial cash funding. Part of that process is ensuring that the businesses have access to vetted, exclusive support services at a free or heavily discounted rate.

Supporting growing startups is at the core of what drives AAI’s operation. Often, entrepreneurs struggle with the transition to becoming employers, so AAI offers consultation support to all EDGE finalists as well as a 60% discount on their premium inclusive recruitment service and aftercare.

The main aims of this partnership are to support Scottish high-growth potential entrepreneurs by demonstrating effective recruitment practices from the outset – with the additional benefit of creating valuable job opportunities for AAI’s diverse audience.

Nick Murray, Marketing and Partnership Lead for AAI comments,

“When EDGE began, we were doing a lot of work with the government around encouraging small teams to hire graduates and use short-term internships to unlock the potential of Entry-level candidates. We’ve been working with all of the EDGE finalists and guiding them through the transition from being a solo entrepreneurs or small founding teams holding on tightly to their plans and ideas and supporting them to make that difficult transition into becoming a leader and an employer. This is just one case study of so many EDGE finalists and winners that we have been able to support.”


Triyit, a product discovery club, on a mission to help consumers find their new favourite products, initially did a recruitment round with Indeed and weren’t happy with the process or applications that came through. Following this, they approached AAI just as they were making a transition to expand beyond the remit of graduate roles. Upon being approached by Triyit, Nick did everything he could to help and eventually found Ashleigh through an extensive LinkedIn head-hunting exercise.  He opened up conversations with her and quickly found that she wasn’t feeling fulfilled in her existing role. “The funny thing about this case study is that Triyit wanted to manage recruitment themselves because they thought that AAI at the time was about graduate internships and they were looking for a business development and salesperson with a couple of years experience. The catch twenty-two here is that young people don’t often choose to get into a sales role and the ones that are good at it, often don’t know that they are,” says Nick.

Ashleigh was very interested in the role and after Triyit had completed their first round of interviews and still not found anyone, Nick convinced them to interview Ashleigh. Triyit went on to recruit her into their team and she has since become a core part of the business.

Derek Connor, Director at Triyit, said,

“After being burned a couple of times looking for candidates in this role, we were cautious about this partnership, however, the effort that Nick specifically went to in order to find us the right candidate was above and beyond what we ever could have expected. Ashleigh is a huge asset to our organisations, and we are so pleased that AAI helped us to find her.”

Jack Proctor, Marketing & Comms Manager at Scottish EDGE comments,

“Our relationship with AAI really helps us get the right people into the right business and when it’s put to the test like this, the proof is in the pudding. Good employees are critical in supporting organisations to stay afloat, especially in these challenging times and Triyit is faring well over the course of the pandemic.”

Jack feels that from a partnership perspective, AAI goes above and beyond to make the collaboration work and continually make sure that they are really delivering on it. He comments,

“One thing that we are really adamant about with the partnerships is that the people we support are the ones that benefit most, and we ask our partners to put something on the table that is of genuine value to those businesses. I can’t think of a round where AAI hasn’t in some way collaborated with the businesses we have supported, and that support can be anything from giving them business advice, right through to placing someone in a team.”

So far AAI has supported 49 Scottish EDGE-winning businesses, creating 126 jobs in Scotland. Jack feels that the partnership with AAI ultimately creates a stronger support offering for the businesses who come through the competition. “We pride ourselves not only on the opportunity a win at a Scottish EDGE final can give a company, but also the support we can offer after. We monitor the survival and success rates of every EDGE winner, and how they grow their teams is a huge factor in how sustainable they’ll be in the long run.”

Nick comments, “I was an assessor for applications for EDGE right at the start of the pandemic and it was really difficult looking at some of the businesses, knowing that many would be deemed unviable as a direct result of COVID-19. To see what has come through in the last round, diverse businesses that I had never even heard of, doing incredible things, is testament to the entrepreneurial talent that Scottish EDGE attracts.  For us to be able to go out and listen to their pain points and advise on what a job position could be, and work with them to create really interesting and diverse jobs for candidates, is so rewarding. It’s about sustainability, it’s about relationships and it’s about helping these people unlock their potential in Scotland.”

Jack comments,

“Entrepreneurialism is a big organism in Scotland, it doesn’t operate in isolation and you can’t expect anything to reach its full potential when it’s a single entity. You need all of those different parts feeding in. We can provide the funding but without the right people coming in to direct the spend in the right place it wouldn’t be worth as much. We have a really specific role within a business and as impactful as that is, it wouldn’t be anything without those extra parts coming in.”

Nick concludes, “We speak to early-stage companies all of the time and I’m always saying, have you applied to Scottish EDGE? We are continually directing people to the platform so it’s a closed circle in terms of collaboration.”

Scottish EDGE has also created 4 jobs over the last 5 years with AAI, which further reinforces the strength of this partnership and the mutually beneficial opportunities that it creates for both organisations.

Growing companies that have been trading for less than 5 years, looking for that next stage of growth should contact Scottish EDGE directly for more information.

Businesses who want to work with a not-for-profit recruitment agency that is centered around people, inclusion and reaching a diverse audience should contact AAI EmployAbility.

Case Studies News

Powered Through Collective Action And Expertise, Global Open Finance Centre Of Excellence (GOFCoE) Initiative Secures £22.5m Funding Grant

The University of Edinburgh, FinTech Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and the Financial Data and Technology Association (FDATA)

Can Do Collective spoke with FinTech Scotland, to find out more about why the collective impact approach was so important for the successful funding application submitted by the Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence (GOFCoE) initiative.

Open Banking is currently the most significant global trend in financial services and financial technology (FinTech). Launched in the UK in 2018, Open Banking is a pioneering initiative to rebalance markets in favour of consumers by using shared financial data through secure open Application Programming Interfaces to increase competition and innovation, leading to better products and services. Crucially, Open Banking is likely to evolve to Open Finance, taking into account other areas of Financial Services such and Pensions, Investments and Insurance.

It will help create new opportunities for products and services, allowing researchers to better understand the opportunities and impacts of this financial data evolution for society, the economy and the environment. The Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence (GOFCoE) is being established in Edinburgh to provide leadership, coordination, research and capability to support Open Finance.


The Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence (GOFCoE) is an initiative brought together by the collective action & expertise of The University of Edinburgh, FinTech Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and the Financial Data and Technology Association (FDATA). Their initial bid was shortlisted from over 200 companies and then went on to win an investment fund of £22.5m along with six other projects.

The key objectives of The Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence (GOFCoE) are to:

  • Enable research and innovation, thus accelerating industry adoption of Open Finance at scale
  • Decrease time-to-market and development costs, thereby improving start-up survival, attracting inward investment, securing jobs and creating export opportunities
  • Undertake data-driven research to create knowledge of financial behaviours and deliver wider social and economic benefits for all
  • Work with industry to establish ethical standards and best practice to ensure public trust

The bid benefited from the support of Scottish Enterprise and The University of Edinburgh who has extensive expertise with regards to bids and grant funding. The academic body (UoE) will be one of the main end-users of the programme as the intelligence will support more accurate and relevant research in this space moving forward. FinTech Scotland worked to amplify the profile of the project as well as bringing people together to collaborate and galvanise the overall process.

Mickael Paris, Marketing Director for FinTech Scotland comments,

“The project will enable innovation around financial data leading to new research and the creation of new companies as well as providing a framework of support for existing companies.

We believe that the ultimate beneficiary of this project is the citizen. More informed research, better and easier access to financial services as well as the development of innovative services will be good for everyone. This is our definition of Fintech. Fintech is a movement that uses data and technology to deliver a better outcome for people or companies and we really believe in that.”


Nicola Anderson, Strategic Development Director at FinTech Scotland comments,

“The impact of the collaboration is currently probably best demonstrated through the fantastic achievement of the £22.5m funding granted through the strength in places that was awarded by UK Research & Innovation. This outcome demonstrates the power of business and academic collaboration and the funding will go towards driving enterprise, business innovation and jobs.

With engagement across Scotland, UK and globally, the initiative will further reinforce the inclusive international approach in developing the fintech cluster which is focused on delivering better consumer financial outcomes and sustainable economic growth through innovation.

This is the first significant award of its kind in the UK into research in financial services and important given the strength of financial services and fintech to the Scottish economy. The breath of the financial services industry that already works in Scotland is fantastic. We have great businesses across wealth management, asset management, banking, insurance, pensions and then we have a huge range of FinTech SME’s and we are continually seeing this number increase. The financial services industry is strategically important, not just to the Scottish and wider economy but also it’s a strategically important industry in its own right – so to have that collaborative project come to Scotland to really think about the future of some aspects of financial services is a great collaborative outcome.”

To find out more about the project, visit

About FinTech Scotland

FinTech Scotland is an independent not for profit body jointly established by the financial services sector, universities and Scottish Government to ensure that Scotland seizes the FinTech opportunities and achieves positive economic and social outcomes by encouraging financial innovation, collaboration and inclusion as part of the country’s broader digital economy objectives.

The organisation acts as a strategic enabler and cluster management body focused on leveraging the potential economic (i.e. productivity, business creation, employment) and social (i.e. financial inclusion, well-being and accessibility) benefits arising from becoming a leading global centre focused on Fintech innovation.

FinTech Scotland’s objectives are to develop an innovative community of FinTech firms, generate impactful collaborations between firms of all sizes and foster an inclusive cluster which is globally recognised and connected.

In January 2020, FinTech Scotland was formally recognised for the development for the Fintech cluster in Scotland and accredited with the bronze label for Cluster Management Excellence by the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis.

FinTech Scotland was initially founded in January 2018 as a joint initiative by Lloyds Banking Group, HSBC, University of Edinburgh, Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise. The organisation is now supported by a broad range of global financial services, technology and professional services firms as well as the University of Edinburgh and the University of Strathclyde, the Financial Conduct Authority, Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise.

Social media handles

Facebook – @FinTechScotland
Twitter – @FinTechScotland
Linked In – @FinTechScotland
YouTube – @FinTechScotland

Case Studies News

The Retail Academy – Leveraging Collective Impact To Forge Routes To Market For Social Products

Social Investment Scotland, Asda, Rachael Brown and the Scottish Government leverage collective impact to forge routes to market for social products.

Can Do Collective speak with Lindsay Wake, Head of Impact, Social Investment Scotland (SIS) to find out more about why the collective impact approach was so important for the successful delivery of the Retail

The SIS Retail Academy is designed to provide the very best training, guidance and support for social
entrepreneurs. It aims to inspire, offer practical insight and knowledge and the opportunity to meet with retail and corporate buyers who will provide expert feedback and may wish to develop a future buyer-supplier relationship.


SIS Retail Academy, 30/05/2019:
Rachael Brown, SIS associate.
Photography for Social Investment Scotland from: Colin Hattersley Photography – – – 07974 957 388.

The project is based on the premise that there is demand from consumers for ethical and social products, however many of these products are not readily available to purchase from major stockists. The academy was built around Asda’s existing supplier development academy but has now been further developed to deliver something specifically for social enterprises.

Funded by the Scottish Government, and by Asda, and curated by SIS’s social entrepreneur in residence, Rachael Brown, The Retail Academy is a three-day event bringing together a carefully curated selection of volunteer experts with several social enterprise peers, supporting them to develop their business strategies and learn more about their routes to market.

The three-day programme is a platform for experts to share their knowledge around emerging market trends and personal business experiences. It also includes a trip to an Asda warehouse and store, as well as masterclass and peer dinners where extended support organisations are invited. It culminates in a pitching session to buyers, with the intention that some social enterprises then go on to secure placement on the shelves of major stockists.

Last year the academy worked with Edinburgh University (a SIS funder) and Historic Environment Scotland who attended as a buyer, offering an important new route to market as well as sharing their industry expertise. Several successful social enterprises including Brewgooder, Hey Girl, Shetland Soap Company, Scottish Design Exchange, and Locavore also attended, to share their own experiences.


With this type of programme, it is difficult to express the full outcomes and impact, which are future-focused and likely to be experienced over some time. However, there are strong indications that the programme will have deep and ongoing impacts on individuals and their organisations. In the next 12 months, SIS will conduct a detailed research piece to find out the longer-term impacts of each of the academies. It’s as much about understanding customers and routes to market, which may not actually be via retail, as it is about securing sales and shelf space.

Highlights from the 2019 Retail Academy include:

  • Encouraging responses from all buyers and procurement professionals who attended the academy and who continue to be supporters of the enterprises, through mentoring, advice, introductions and moving towards supplier relationships
  • 29 separate introductions between the social enterprises and buyer teams took place
  • 4 opportunities being actively developed between social enterprises and buyers
  • 3 social enterprises have also benefited from invitation-only training offers from specialist support organisations Zero Waste Scotland and Food and Drink Scotland
  • Feedback from delegates has been overwhelmingly positive with 100% of delegates recommending the Retail Academy for others.
SIS Retail Academy, 30/05/2019:
Alan Mahon, Brewgooder, in panel discussion.
Photography for Social Investment Scotland from: Colin Hattersley Photography – – – 07974 957 388.

Over the last three years, The Retail Academy has supported 46 social entrepreneurs including Brewgooder who attended the first event. Since then, they have gone on to be stocked in Asda, Tesco, The Co-Operative (90 branches) and Aldi (78 Scottish branches) with all donations from each sale going towards helping to deliver clean water projects. Since their establishment, Brewgooder has helped fund 60 projects for over 33k people in Malawi and continue to work towards their mission to sponsor clean water charities in developing countries and impact one million people.

With regards to the wider implications, the project bears on Scotland, The social enterprise sector generally supports principles of wellbeing and inclusive economies bringing important social benefits to Scotland, as well as supporting economic outputs such as creating and sustaining jobs. The latest projections reveal that social enterprises support over 88,000 jobs and generated close to £2.3 billion gross value to the country’s economy in 2019.

Lindsay Wake concludes,

“Without the Retail Academy, this journey for a social enterprise could take years and might not even happen but collectively bringing together that whole room of curated support is powerful. Propelling these social enterprises on their journey, with all of these different organisations around them, coming in at the right stages, keeps them on that track and able to get there. If each element was separate, the outcome wouldn’t be the same.”

For more information visit

About Social Investment Scotland

SIS (Social Investment Scotland), is a social enterprise and charity. We offer loan funding and business support for other social enterprises, charities, and community groups looking to make a positive impact on people’s lives, society, or the environment. Our vision is for an Impact Economy; where social entrepreneurs, businesses, consumers, investors, and government are aligned and focused on delivering impactful actions and meaningful outcomes.

SIS was established in 2001 to provide a new finance model for Scotland’s charities and social enterprises. Since then it has invested over £80m across Scotland. Loan finance via Social Investment Scotland is available from £10,000 to £1.6M and is aimed at community enterprises and social businesses that might find access to finance from mainstream providers difficult. Social Investment Scotland also helps to manage funds on behalf of third parties with any profits being re-invested into social business development in Scotland. Social Investment Scotland currently manages the largest social enterprise fund in Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Case Studies

Unlocking Young Ambition student placement programme seeks to inspire the next generation of potential entrepreneurs

Can Do Collective speak with Geoff Leask, Chief Executive of Young Enterprise Scotland to find out more about why the collective impact was so important for the success of The Unlocking Young Ambition student placement programme.

The Unlocking Young Ambition student placement programme seeks to inspire the next generation of potential entrepreneurs and provide inclusive work experience opportunities. It facilitated 40 work placements for students aged 16-30 from a diverse range of backgrounds, enabling them to spend valuable time inside inspirational organisations.


The collaboration began in May 2019, as there was a recognition that students studying in colleges and other further education facilities, don’t always get the same attention when it comes to entrepreneurial activities. Geoff Leask, Chief Executive of Young Enterprise Scotland comments,

“We know from experience of working in colleges through our Bridge 2 Business programme that there is a huge amount of talent in there and often these students don’t have the wherewithal to be able to tap into all of the opportunities available to them so we have worked to create a means to overcome this.

Through discussion with Scottish Enterprise, we developed an opportunity for the companies supported as part of our Unlocking Young Ambition programme to create real-life entrepreneurial experiences within those companies, for the benefit of the students. These placements are designed to connect the young company with talented individuals across Scotland who might bring a fresh spin or thought train to the business,”

concluded Geoff.

Funded and delivered by Scottish Enterprise and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the programme was launched and highlighted to colleges across the country and in the first year, they received 90 applications from students across the further education network. Final candidates were then shortlisted through a series of interviews that took place at Scottish Enterprise in Glasgow and from there, the programme placed 40 young people within organisations.

Unlocking Young Ambition ambassador companies, hosting students included Pillow, Talking Medicines, MyWay Digital Health, ARX Maritime, The Start-Up Drinks Lab (Drinkly) and Phox Water. All travel expenses were covered for each of the students participating in the programme.


Research is currently underway to determine the exact outcome of the 40 placements that were secured, however, the recent global pandemic has made outcomes a lot harder to measure. It is hoped that some of these placements will have resulted in ongoing relationships and future job opportunities.

Examples of successful placements included:

  • Students Jai Dara Latto and Shauny Bishop of Edinburgh & Fife College applied for Unlocking Young Ambition to gain knowledge and experience of working in a start-up to help their personal development. They carried out market research amongst Drinkly’s customer base to help inform future marketing and operational decisions.
  • Edinburgh College students Liam Inglis, Fabio Scaglione and Alexander Hunter secured a placement with ARX MARITIME learning about sales techniques and proactively looking at lead generation to help put those techniques into practice. Fabio Scaglione, who was a student on the Unlocking Young Ambition programme comments, “It’s really interesting to see how you translate your idea into a company, and then how you run a business and make money out of it.”
  • Tyler Shankland, Stephanie Governo and Gemma Kerr, students of Ayrshire College spent two days working with the ambassador, Pillow. The students researched and analysed social media trends before presenting their findings to the team. Tyler Shankland comments, “It’s been fantastic to get real hands-on experience of working in a real entrepreneurial business like Pillow. Scott took the time to find out what we were interested in doing and has tailored our experience accordingly.”

Lisa Wardlaw, Senior Programme Executive, Bridge 2 Business Programme comments,

“The collaboration is an amazing example of how some of Scotland’s top entrepreneurs and their businesses have shown support to Further Education students across Scotland. They have used their strengths to create a genuine impact for the students we work with, through the Bridge 2 Business programme at Young Enterprise Scotland.”

The wider mission for The Unlocking Young Ambition student placement programme is to change the mindsets of young people in Scotland and open their eyes to opportunities that may otherwise never have crossed their radars.

Entrepreneurial companies are often not the obvious career choices for young people looking to secure their first job opportunity so not only does this programme expand the horizons of those applying, but it also opens up a pool of talent to these startups. Not least, the programme also allows The Unlocking Young Ambition ambassadors to give something back by allowing these young people to come and experience their enterprises, following all of the support they themselves received as part of the wider programme.

To find out more about the project visit

About Young Enterprise

​Young Enterprise Scotland has been inspiring & equipping young people to learn, develop and reach their full potential through enterprise since 1992. Every year supporting around 16,000 young people, from all backgrounds, to develop business knowledge, entrepreneurial skills & ultimately become more employable. They aim to:

  • Enhance entrepreneurial attitudes of young people in Scotland;
  • Improve the enterprise skills of young people in Scotland;
  • Strengthen the work readiness of Scotland’s young people.

Their dedicated team are supported by over 500 volunteers from the Scottish business community to help realise their vision for Scotland to be a place where all young people have the opportunity to experience a rewarding future in work/life – no matter where they start their journey. They believe passionately in ‘Enterprise for All’ and deliver a wide range of programmes to ensure our work can reach ALL young people.

Case Studies

Deep Science Ventures & University of Edinburgh launch Food & Agriculture Science Transformer

The University of Edinburgh, The Roslin Institute and Deep Science Ventures

Can Do Collective speak with John Mackenzie, CEO, Roslin Innovation Centre to find out more about why the collective impact was so important for the success of the Food & Agriculture Science Transformer (FAST) programme?

an ambitious programme creating the first venture studio in Scotland

The FAST programme brings together DSV’s market-led approach to creating science companies, and the Roslin Institute’s world-leading expertise and facilities across genomics, veterinary biosciences, biotechnology and agriculture. Each year the partnership is set to launch several high growth technology start-ups comprising teams from the University of Edinburgh, the wider UK, and the rest of the world.


This partnership brings the Roslin Institute’s world-leading facilities and expertise in functional genomics, animal disease, and veterinary clinical biosciences together with Deep Science Ventures’ unique venture design process will together identify critical commercial and technical approaches around which high growth ventures and teams can be built.

FAST currently operates virtually but will soon be jointly located at the Roslin Innovation Centre (RIC), which is based within the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus and DSV London-based headquarters. The Roslin Institute offers flexible office and laboratory open-plan accommodation with quick, easy and secure subdivision and companies formed can be based at RIC with access to state-of-the-art facilities.

Deep Science Ventures was established to create a founder-friendly method for launching high growth science companies with novel IP, and its approach is to develop each company and its team creation over the course of a year. Founders are recruited to investigate neglected areas in which high impact could be made by unifying innovative science from multiple technological domains.

The core objective of the collective project is to identify and bring together entrepreneurial scientists, academic advisors and investors to design and build new companies in agriculture. The programme is open to early-career researchers with an interest in science entrepreneurship. Particular areas of interest include improving agricultural sustainability, tackling the decline of pollinators and refining indoor farming.

Edinburgh Innovations, the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service, is providing support to the FAST programme with funding provided by the Roslin Foundation and the UK Research and Innovation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (UKRI BBSRC).

The collective vision is to deploy innovative science and select globally relevant commercial and technology opportunities, recruit and train ambitious founders from the Edinburgh ecosystem and the world beyond to create agricultural and biotech companies that can respond to the needs of farmers, the public and the planet’s ecosystems.


Edward Perello who is the associate director for agriculture at Deep Science Ventures comments,

“The partnership is creating much-needed room for science founders to build game-changing technologies and business models that work for food security, climate change, and biodiversity loss. Over the coming years, our ambition is to work with the right founders and partners and create hundreds of high-value jobs at the intersection of technology and agriculture. It’s fantastic to have Roslin on board as our first partner, and we’re now recruiting our founding teams.”

John Mackenzie, CEO, Roslin Innovation Centre comments,

“I am very excited by the prospect of this FAST programme, which is a highly unique approach to company formation. Attracting worldwide scientific and entrepreneurial talent and combining them with market-led opportunities to create companies of scale in Animal Health, Agri-tech and/or Aquaculture (AAA), FAST will hopefully find and create the first AAA unicorn company, which will only augment our world-leading position at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus.”

Bruce Whitelaw, Interim Director, The Roslin Institute comments,

“FAST offers a transformative opportunity to accelerate the entrepreneurial culture at Easter Bush. I’m particularly grateful to Edinburgh Innovations for their continued support after having introduced DSV to the Roslin Institute and identified the joint opportunity for a novel approach to company creation.”

Moving forward, quarterly reporting to an internal joint steering committee and annual updates published and promoted externally will be used to assess the ongoing progress and collective impact of the project. Jobs and scale-up companies created as well as scalability and company growth will be used as key performance indicators.

As this project is currently in its pilot phase, it is too soon to measure exact success, however, it is expected that three new companies will be created in Q1 of 2021. The venture has also created job opportunities for people residing in Scotland, with the appointment of two Founding Analysts (FA) and an ongoing recruitment drive for an Aquaculture FA. Thereafter, further founder recruitment will follow by refining the business propositions and skills gaps identified in the process.

John Mackenzie, CEO, Roslin Innovation Centre concludes,

“Creating new companies with rapid growth potential as well as creating jobs and wealth faster in a sustainable way, whilst attracting real world-class scientific and entrepreneurial talent to stay and remain in Scotland is a win-win for all. We are all about Scotland First for a Global Good.”

To find out more about the project visit

Case Studies

Supported by Converge, Dr Kate Cameron uses entrepreneurial ecosystem to springboard her start-up and secure early-stage funding

RSE Enterprise, Converge and Scottish EDGE

Collective speak with Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director of Converge to find out more about why the collective impact was so important for the success of former scientist at the University of Edinburgh Dr Kate Cameron.

Converge is Scotland’s largest company creation programme for staff, students and recent graduates of all Scottish Universities and Research Institutes. Their mission is to help the new generation of innovators, creators and ground-breakers turn their ideas into commercially viable businesses to help Scotland thrive.


Kate’s journey started when she received the Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship for her highly innovative and scaleable biotechnology business, Cytochroma.

Cytochroma uses state of the art science, expertise and robotics to deliver powerful models for drug discovery and development. Their technology predicts how drugs will react in a diverse population, in both health and disease, reducing the need for animal testing, making drug development more efficient.

She then went on to enter the Converge and EDGE Challenges in 2018. As a result of being shortlisted as a finalist in the 2018 Converge Challenge, she received business development, PR and marketing support from the organisation for a year.

In that same year, she won the HIGGS Edge Award, a specific award for businesses with scientific foundations and the grant funding secured allowed her to take a huge leap, kickstarting her lab work and taking some office space. The following year she was also a finalist in the Accelerator Awards, which us a programme run by investing women.

Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director of Converge comments,

Kate is a great example of someone who has used the eco-system in its best form. She has used the right kind of support at the right time so that she can then move on and you can see that she is now growing. It’s brilliant to be able to support people that we believe have the potential to succeed and we all do believe in her.

We are like a family with these other collective organisations and we get on and believe in the same things. We are not competing because we all want our innovators to succeed. We all understand that this is a collective impact. No one organisation could tick all of the boxes but the combination of them, create the perfect recipe for success.

On the flip side, Kate has also been a great ambassador for us and the face of our campaign pre-COVID because she realises that we have all played our part in supporting her journey.”


Converge has measures in place to track the success of each project they work on. They measure the impact of the alumni by looking at when they incorporated the business, what funds they have managed to raise, the jobs that each project has created and the survival rate of each of the businesses they work to support. Every 3-4 years they also commission an independent economic evaluation.

Dr Kate Cameron, founder of Cytochroma comments,

“Working with a collective has been invaluable and their support at each stage of my growth has really helped me to propel my business. The Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship has connected me to so many companies, Converge have supported me with business development and PR and the HIGGS Edge Award winners fund has allowed me to kickstart lab work and take office space.

So far I have managed to raise £330,000 just from grants and competitions and I have also now grown my team to three full-time employees, including myself. We are still in the pre-trading and product development phase of the business but our next step is to go for investment to get a bigger chunk of money that will support us to launch the products and develop services the year after. We will also be looking to put a sales team in place.”

Further to the financial and business success demonstrated by Kate, there are also a great many positive social implications that have resulted from the project. Kate’s business yields a societal health return on investment. Her products will go on to help other businesses as well as doctors and patients lives. Not least, she is also a woman and her success story serves as a hugely inspirational story for women residing across Scotland and beyond.

To find out more about the Converge Challenges, visit

About Converge

Converge is Scotland’s largest company creation programme for staff, students and recent graduates of all Scottish Universities and Research Institutes. Our mission is to help the new generation of innovators, creators and ground-breakers turn their ideas into commercially viable businesses to help Scotland thrive.

Converge is the only programme of its kind bringing together academic entrepreneurs from every university in Scotland under one roof. We offer intensive training – tailored specifically to academic entrepreneurs –one-to-one guidance enabling staff, students and graduates to explore the commercial potential of their research, creativity and ideas.

They are funded by the Scottish Funding Council, all 18 Scottish Universities, Creative Scotland and a network of professional partners. They also enjoy close working ties with the wider Scottish entrepreneurial ecosystem including investors, accelerators and support agencies.​