Dr Susie Mitchell
So I'm Dr Susie Mitchell. I'm the program director for Glasgow City of Science and Innovation. So we are a hub for science and innovation based in the Glasgow city region. We connect around 95 partners across academia, business and government, and our remit is to work in partnership to put Glasgow, I guess, on the science and innovation global map and to really promote collaboration and partnership-working to drive the innovation economy within the Glasgow City region.
Susie, welcome. What in your view are the core elements of Glasgow's DNA?
Dr Susie Mitchell
I think Glasgow is very much an ambitious and inventive and an entrepreneurial city that learns from its past and builds on its strength. And I particularly think that our people form the backbone of our city and have always shown a willingness, I think, to embrace change, to adapt, to reinvent along our long and rich history. Many of your listeners will probably know that our city slogan is People Make Glasgow, and for us, that's no mere brand; it represents our reputation as a welcoming city that's very much rooted in the historic values of solidarity and equality for all. And in fact, it was the travel writer H.V. Morton, who described Glasgow as “the city of reality” in his 1929 work In Search of Scotland, and really, that hasn't changed. Essentially, the Glaswegian spirit hasn't changed. We love to debate and dispute, and I think that's the foundation of a strong city-democracy, and it's in our nature to want to do more.
I would say we're a friendly and tolerant city. We are people that are deeply proud of our city with a wicked sense of humour. And arguably, these features, too, form the basis of our smart, connected and resilient city; indeed, the city that you see today in Glasgow. In my mind, there's nowhere quite like Glasgow. It's real and it makes things happen.
Susie, Glasgow has a particular history of discovery and innovation. Why is that?
Dr Susie Mitchell
So the city of Glasgow, I guess, now regarded as Scotland's economic powerhouse, has really quite a remarkable history of discovery and innovation from beta-blockers, penicillin and ultrasound, to the television and refrigeration. Innovating and with global impact is absolutely central to our story. Indeed, it was back in 1775, that the Scottish inventor James Watt had his eureka moment as he walked in the banks of the River Clyde and conceived the idea of the separate steam condenser which would transform the rudimentary steam engine into the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution. For 200 years, our city was a global pioneer in industry and invention.
And if you're lucky enough to visit Glasgow today, nestled on the River Clyde lies the imposing Finnieston Crane, and that really is a bold reminder of Glasgow's heritage when we were known as the workshop of the world. From shipbuilding to aeronautical engineering, Glasgow was the industrial heartland of Scotland, and by the end of the 19th century, we could lay claim to one of the largest accumulations of industrial capital. And of course, across the world, the term Clyde-built was synonymous with quality and innovation.
Then, in the second half of the 20th century, Glasgow endured a turbulent period of deindustrialization and depopulation, but we survived. And now, whether it's for our science and technology, or our arts and culture scene, the world knows about Glasgow again. And in my mind, underpinning it all is our gift for using innovation to drive value-based, human-centred, transformational change often triggered by the social, cultural and economic challenges of the day. I think our enduring thirst for discovery and innovation has created a dynamic city that is now building a globally competitive innovation ecosystem and is increasingly attractive to global and domestic talent and businesses within growing industries alike.
Susie, thinking about this amazing history that you've just talked about, what are the wider characteristics or features of Glasgow that have supported or contributed to this innovation capability?
Dr Susie Mitchell
I guess Glasgow - and I should say we're a proud runner-up in the 2019 European Capital of Innovation competition - today, is home to one of the most diverse and dynamic innovation economies in Europe. And I would argue that partnership lies at the heart of our innovation capabilities. Glasgow has firmly placed collaborative innovation at the heart of its economic strategy as a means to drive inclusive growth and find solutions to the challenges that we are facing. And this is very much supported by a range of embedded city governance structures, including our own agency, City of Science and Innovation, that formally bring together businesses, academic institutions and government agencies across the region to tap Glasgow's potential as a world-class place for academia, business innovation and entrepreneurship. Other structures that are driving partnerships and collaboration includes a range of national innovation centres spanning key sectors from photonics and industrial biotech to digital health and construction. The support business innovation by facilitating partnerships between business and academia whilst providing - and this is imperative - the right support at the right time along the innovation continuum-- so that could be access to funding, training, innovation partners.
And of course, we have three developing innovation districts across the region with specialisms enabling technologies, for example, including quantum, space communications technologies, biomedical with a focus on precision medicine, low-carbon and advanced manufacturing. And those innovation districts, at the heart of those, will be interdisciplinary research and innovation. So that will very much be a common objective of all three districts. At the heart of Glasgow, the Glasgow City Innovation District in the centre of our city, importantly, will lie a centre for civic innovation which brings together citizens and multi-sector partners to redesign and to innovate public services. And that will be quite radical for Glasgow and an interesting approach to kind of redesigning our public services to make sure that they are value-based and human-centred and importantly, to help us to tackle those wicked problems on the ground from poverty and financial exclusion to social isolation.
We're also, of course, a creative hub, a European City of Culture, a UNESCO City of Music and home to the globally recognised Glasgow School of Art which has, to date, produced around six Turner Prize winners. We host major broadcasters, including BBC, STV, and we're a regional hub now for Channel Four, all of this alongside a vibrant and growing creative SME base with specialisms in media, digital media, as well as music, art and design.
Finally, Glasgow is one of the world's leading convention cities, and business tourism is worth over a billion to the city's economy. Again, I think that's driven by strong partnerships between our world-renowned academic experts, our sector business leaders and our amazing convention bureau. We've attracted, particularly, sort of conventions and conferences in the areas of biomedicine, low-carbon, for example. But what also sort of drives success in this area is demonstrable political investment in innovation and innovative practices by city government. So a case in point, as the recently announced host of the UN Climate Change Summit, COP26, the Glasgow bid was strengthened by our position at the vanguard of innovating to overcome the global climate challenge. And that, again, was very much backed-up by Glasgow's Climate Emergency Declaration which lays down an ambitious target to be carbon neutral by 2030.
Susie, it sounds like you're talking about a competitive advantage of partnership. Why is Glasgow particularly oriented towards this partnership approach? Is there something in the history that makes this obviously the way to work, or is there something else? Is it something in the air that people breathe here? Why do people want to partner in order to compete?
Dr Susie Mitchell
It's a really interesting question, and to a certain extent, it may be within our DNA and how we operate and, again, that sort of spirit of-- in terms of how we communicate with one another, sort of more generally, sort of in the city: we are communicators, we are storytellers, and we like to talk to one another, and we like to connect. We have tacit knowledge, I guess, of businesses and people and agencies kind of within a relatively small geography. And I also think there is a spirit, at a city level, of wanting to make sure that we engage with all of those kind of key elements, whether it's business, academia, government agency, to find the best solutions for Glasgow. And that's just how we operate. And I know that when I go to other cities, they're really surprised, actually, at how we've managed to do that.
And I think we've kind of developed those partnerships almost kind of organically and naturally. And there's got to be something, an intangible about just the way that Glasgow sort of connects and communicates where that has kind of naturally developed as a kind of-- you know, as part of the system, I guess. So, yes, it's definitely a feature of Glasgow that we're particularly proud of, and we have to remember, actually, that other places don't have that, necessarily.
You spoke earlier about the way that Glasgow has evolved, and it's been through different periods of economic history including de-industrialisation. Has Glasgow now become a resilient city that's able to withstand shocks, and if so, how does it do that? How does it recover from shocks?
Dr Susie Mitchell
Yeah, I mean, as you say, Glasgow has weathered a lot of change throughout its very proud industrial past from the decline of traditional industries to the more recent economic downturns, and we have recovered well from these shocks. Today - I mentioned earlier - we're one of the fastest-growing economies in the UK outside London. We have internationally recognized universities. We're investing in industries of the future and finding new solutions through sectoral convergence and partnerships, partnership-working. We are becoming a global leader, now, in new low-carbon economies within digital science and technology, and this is supported by a rejuvenated skills and knowledge base. And we host around 575 innovative tech firms now, and that's as many as Lille and Turin and Bilbao combined. So in the face of adversity, I think we demonstrate flexibility, we demonstrate strength of character, and we also demonstrate a willingness to learn from others, including our European and Transatlantic city partners, allowing us to capitalise on opportunities for growth.
I think as a city with global aspirations, Glasgow stands again on the precipice of profound change. But as we have done before, we're determined to rise above the headwinds and remain in control of our resilience and growth. How we will do that? We will draw upon our diverse economic strengths, our partnerships and our spirit of innovation, which made us an industrial world leader, to drive our efforts to create a world-leading, low-carbon knowledge economy, to generate solutions for the societal challenges that we face - and we do face societal challenges - and to build better lives and better places for all of our citizens, all within the context of our welcoming, tolerant, international and outward-looking knowledge city that has the wellbeing of citizens and communities at its heart.