This flagship event was carefully crafted by Glasgow City of Science and Innovation (GCoSI) and partners to help Scottish small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) explore new possibilities to unlock their innovation potential. A key focus for the Summit programme was helping business to embrace the creative adoption of enabling technologies to develop new products and services. We wanted to blend this with stories from companies that are fostering workplace cultures conducive to driving growth through innovation.

We were joined by an array of tech sector experts, entrepreneurial academics, innovators, enterprise support agencies, Innovation Centres and investors – and we’re delighted with the result.

The feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive with 89% of respondents rating the event as good or excellent overall in our post-event evaluation. We have also had helpful ideas from our speakers, exhibitors and delegates on a range of areas to help us shape the Summit in future years and we’ve pulled out some of these in our broader themes below.

Networking and Connecting

Delegates indicated that networking was one of the primary reasons people came to the event with 83% of our attendees making new or useful contacts at the Summit. The ‘Connect to Grow’ parallel session (sponsored by Glasgow Riverside Innovation District and University of Glasgow) was one of the most well received and our key areas for networking – namely, the Exhibition and Innovation Centre Showcase – received high approval ratings with 84% finding these spaces excellent or good overall.

We designed a structured networking space in our café area and positioned panel speakers there throughout the day to encourage informal conversation around the Summit themes. While this space was well used, our delegates fed back that more structure and direction would have added value to this element of the Summit – so we’ll be looking at how we can rework this for the 2020 Summit.

Practical Business Support

We were really proud to learn that 40% of attendees said they would do something new or different as a result of attending the Summit (22%‘don’t know’ and 20%‘not applicable’).

From the outset we wanted to make the Summit as practical as possible – with 12 panels of SMEs providing real-life peer experiences of innovating human-centred products, services and business models with economic and social impacts. We had representatives from key support agencies to help attendees to navigate the rich, innovation-focused resources and support available in Scotland.

Our Innovation Centre Showcase (sponsored by Amazon Web Services) was curated to provide practical insight into how these dedicated innovation hubs support business to turn ideas into commercial reality – and 95% of delegates found the Showcase to be excellent or good. Our Support Village was aimed at helping SMEs find specialist entrepreneurial and innovation support across the Scottish Ecosystem and 88% of delegates rated this excellent or good.

Next year we’d like to maintain our strong ratings in this area – but also look to showcase new and better ways for SMEs to navigate the innovation support ecosystem through our partner initiatives. We’d also like to look at demonstrating the work of innovative SMEs through our Exhibition space to complement the content in our parallel sessions.

Adopting emerging and enabling technologies

Scotland has a gift for innovation, and in 2019 we boasted world-leading research and innovation across emerging areas – from communications technologies and precision medicine to low carbon and manufacturing, to name a few.

One of the top 3 reasons why people attended the Summit was wanting to know how new technologies could help them to tackle business challenges.

Our themed ‘future trend’ parallel sessions were well-received, with all but one receiving over 75% good or excellent ratings (with 8 out of 12 receiving over 80% approval ratings). Our keynote sessions featuring, local and international innovation experts and leading government figures, were particularly popular with over 90% approval ratings.

Based on our delegate feedback we’ll be looking at how we can explore more ‘technologies of the future’ at the 2020 Summit and ensuring we structure the sessions to tease out even more of our panel expertise on the day. We’ll also aim to highlight more creative and unconventional approaches to technical and cultural innovation that businesses are taking in Scotland and beyond.

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity was important to us from the outset and was something we proactively discussed with Summit contributors and our partners from across the Scottish Ecosystem. There were some areas where we achieved our goals in this area – but some where there were challenges.

In terms of delegates, 45% of registered attendees identified as female and 52% as male (with 3% preferring not to say). 7% of our delegates identified as BME – higher than the number of people across Scotland from ethnic minority groups (4% according to the most recent Census).

In terms of speakers, we selected Sector and Industry experts to Chair our sessions who could actively contribute to the content of the sessions. We were initially on-track to meeting our 50:50 gender targets for speakers, however there were several factors in the run up to the event that shifted the ratio. For example, there were five examples where female speakers dropped out or were replaced by men from within their company. Overall on the day we had 66% male speakers and 34% female – something we’ll be working to improve for future years.

It can be challenging to reflect diversity, including ethnicity and disability – particularly in some of the tech sectors that are our focus at the Summit – due to low levels of diversity in these workforces. We know that increased diversity drives greater business innovation and we will work hard with our strategic partners to encourage and support greater diversity in business.

For future events we will seek even wider consultation with specialist groups around accessing more diverse speakers across our key themes. We will also use those groups to help us attract more diversification when it comes to the event attendees.


We worked with our event management company to reduce paper waste, using an event app to communicate with delegates and keeping delegate handouts to a single A4 sheet to help with agenda and wayfinding. We used re-purposed GSC furniture and future-proofed signage, backdrops and banners so that they could be re-used for future events.

We had feedback about single use plastic bottles in our lunches which we will strive to eliminate for future events – transitioning to encouraging delegates to bring re-usable water bottles and coffee cups. We’ll seek to further limit the amount of plastic used during the event in general and work more closely with our caterers to reduce food waste.

Including everyone in the conversation

We used a range of tools to help include everyone in the conversation at the Summit. The event was free of charge to ensure that cost was not a barrier for small businesses. We also worked with partners such as Highlands and Islands Enterprise to help ensure more small businesses in rural areas were aware of the Summit – and on the day we welcomed attendees from all across Scotland from Hawick to Forres.

We actively encouraged engagement and participation of young people in the Summit through hosting the pitch final of our VentureJam youth programme – the official youth talent development strand of VentureFest. Venturejam focuses on inclusion and equality of opportunity and involves teams of young people from a range of backgrounds developing fresh ideas to solve real-world ‘green’ business challenges.

We asked our speakers from a range of specialisms to use language appropriate to a general audience and explain technical phrases. We asked them to focus on visual slides to complement their messages and avoid excessive text.

We created an event app (sponsored by Digital World and the Centre for Work-based Learning) to enable a broad spectrum of attendees and speakers to connect with each other at the event and we used across our parallel sessions to enable delegates to ask questions without having to publically take up a mic. We reserved spaces for Structured Networking with speakers to help delegates continue their conversations in more informal settings.


We used pre-attendance registration information to understand attendee’s specific requirements and chose a venue that caters to a range of access and communication needs.

Glasgow Science Centre works hard to ensure their venue is accessible as explained in their online access statement, which was shared on our event website. We also made sure we had a range of seating and table formats available in networking spaces. Our web content met accessibility standards and was screen-reader friendly. Next year Glasgow Science Centre will be adding a family room that can be used for prayer or meditation or as a pumping room for breastfeeding. They are also installing a Changing Places toilet.

For the 2020 Summit we will strive to offer communications and content in even more formats for those with different access needs.

The Future of CAN DO Innovation Summit

We’re proud of what we’ve delivered in our first year and grateful for all the input and feedback from our delegates, partners, and wider supporters to help us build the next event. We’re already excited about the next event and we’ll be working hard to create a CAN DO Innovation Summit that not only acts as a celebration of Scottish innovation but also creates a day of insight, inspiration and practical support to drive more challenge-led, collaborative innovation that will find the solutions of tomorrow.

If you have suggestions for the Summit or content that could help stimulate innovation within growing SMEs we’d love to hear from you. You can reach us