Royal Society of Chemistry President Professor Gill Reid opened proceedings with a brief introductory message to the gathered crowd in the main room. She announced the winners of a series of scientific prizes given to young people later in the day.
And Prof Reid – herself a proud Scot – emphasised just how vital it is to bring together influential people and organisations from different backgrounds to help to effect real change. She said: “The connection between science and government policy is so important for the growth of the economy in Scotland, across the UK and globally. Science has got a really important role to play and for me, chemistry is at the heart of that.
“I’m delighted to be in Edinburgh and meeting with all of the other representatives and of course the MSPs because they are the people that can make things happen. We can offer the information and the science; they then need to distil that and take policies forward. We want to really have an influence there.”
After Prof Reid’s introductory remarks, Ivan McKee MSP – who is Scotland’s Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise – outlined Holyrood’s plans for a new innovation strategy. He emphasised that he wants Scotland to be the best in the world in a number of ‘opportunity sectors’, translating academic excellence into economic success, during a 20-minute keynote speech.
This was followed by a panel discussion looking at innovation, how it is already impacting society and the way it is communicated. A Q&A session at the end saw the conversation move into the realm of the ethical implications of innovation as much as the potential economic transformation it can bring.
This theme came up again in the next panel discussion. In this, a cross-party panel of five MSPs – including Clare Adamson, from the governing SNP, and former Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie – talked about the importance of – and the issues facing – STEM and innovation.
Chaired by former BBC Scotland journalist Ken Macdonald, the discussion also saw audience members put the politicians on the spot, with the likes of the Erasmus university scheme, EU Horizon funding, and access to science resources for families among the discussion points during the hour-long session.