Can Scotland create a prosperous, safer, greener world?

Scotland’s Innovation Centres have teamed up with The Herald for a special, one-day online conference on Tuesday, November 3rd 2020 to explore innovation, inclusive growth, cultural change around climate action, and ultimately how collaboration could achieve national net zero targets.

The ‘Scotland’s Countdown to COP26’ event will mark one year until COP26, the UN climate change conference taking place in Glasgow in 2021. It will be the first time a COP summit has met in the UK and one of the largest events Scotland has ever hosted.

Chaired by Scottish Enterprise’s Martin Valenti, the free, one-day conference will be packed with plenary speakers, themed sessions, presentations, panel discussions, Q&As, networking and virtual exhibitions. Each will explore the different opportunities COP26 will present for Scotland to take action and create a prosperous, safer, and greener world.

Kate Raworth from the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute and Peter Lacy, Europe Lead for Accenture Strategy, will lead a list of high-profile speakers.

There will also be six climate-themed sessions covering construction and the built environment; energy; health and wellbeing; sustainable industrial processes; sustainable food from land and sea; and transport.

The event will be delivered by the seven Scottish Innovation Centres:  CENSIS, the Innovation Centre for sensing, imaging and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies; Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC); The Data Lab; Digital Health and Care Institute (DHI); Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC); Precision Medicine Scotland (PMS); and SAIC, the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre.

Launched in 2012, the centres accelerate technology advances by forging new collaborations between service delivery, businesses, and the research community, with a mission to create jobs and support inclusive economic growth.

There will also be support from the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), and the Scottish Funding Council.

New business models and lifestyle changes imposed by Covid-19 have resulted in a reduction in CO2 emissions and an improvement in air quality across the globe. At Scotland’s Countdown to COP26, Scottish businesses and organisations of all types will be challenged to come together, collaborate, and respond in the run up to the summit, delivering new products, services, and ways of working that will lead to a more sustainable future.

The Innovation Centres will subsequently lead follow-on activities in the 12 months after the event, aiming to create and deliver transformational collaboration and climate change programmes across multiple sectors within Scotland and beyond.

Paul Winstanley, chief executive of CENSIS, said: “The eyes of the world will be on Scotland when COP26 arrives next year. With that comes a responsibility to start conversations now and take action to make sure we grasp the opportunity that has been presented to us. “The build up to COP26 will be very different to what it would have been had it gone ahead as planned this year, but even through the experience of Covid-19 there are lessons to be learned and opportunities to take when it comes to our relationship with the planet.

“Doing nothing is not an option anymore: the emission reductions witnessed in 2020 may just as easily rebound unless longer-term actions are established to bring lasting change. Achieving systemic change of this scale requires significant collaboration across all sectors of society and an agile approach to maximise net-zero opportunities.  “Put simply, a reset is required on the way we live and work and how we drive change from a reactive stance of managing problems to a proactive one of exploring opportunities. Encouraging the development and use of new technologies to tackle these challenges will be more important than ever.  “Set against the threat of climate change and the impact of Covid-19, Scotland must seize the opportunity to plan and deliver an inspiring and compelling response under the watching eyes of the world in a year’s time. We plan to kick that off at our Scotland’s Countdown to COP26 event, which will spark conversations and, more importantly, challenge everyone in Scotland to take action and bring about positive change that can have a global impact.”