With 50+ speakers, 4 stages, 20+ Support Village exhibitors, 8 sofa sessions, 3 masterclasses – and culminating in an incredible immersive AI fashion finale, this flagship event was carefully crafted by Glasgow City of Science and Innovation (GCoSI) and partners to help Scottish SMEs and start-ups to explore essential tech trends, tools and business cultures to allow their business to flourish in a tech-driven and virtual future. 

The CAN DO Innovation Summit was nothing short of phenomenal. The event was a masterclass in organisation, communication and execution.

Theo Tzanidis, 2023 Speaker

Who Came?

750 tech sector experts, entrepreneurial academics, innovators, enterprise support agencies, and investors joined us from all over Scotland – from Dumfries to Inverness.  

We’re pleased that 42% of our delegates were from the private sector – our primary target audience. Of these, 30% were SMEs, 27% were start-ups, 13% were scale-ups and 12% were idea stage businesses. And 57% were founders, directors or senior leaders of their companies.  

The top sectors attending were Tech & engineering, Education, Creative industries, Health and life sciences and Energy & environment. 

Progressing Regional and National Innovation Plans 

Importantly, the Summit brings together key leaders including Summit partners, Glasgow City Council, Scottish Enterprise and Innovate UK. This year the event provided an ideal strategic platform for our partners to launch the new Innovation Action Plan for Glasgow City Region. For our part, GCoSI led consultations with 120 innovation leaders, (from local founders and investors to academia and 3rd sector leaders) that directly influenced the plan, which covers six major themes: an Inclusive Economy, Skills, Ecosystem, Identity, Investment and Infrastructure. Innovate UK and Scottish Enterprise also signed a landmark MoU to help increase innovation support & funding access for Scottish businesses. 

Scotland has great business support organisations and innovation hubs, but even more needs to be done to unite them. The event was a great opportunity to discuss how the different agencies can work together to incentivise innovation and streamline support for start-ups and SMEs.  

Networking and Connecting 

A key aim of the Summit is to enable community connection. Delegates tell us that the primary reason they attend the Summit is to make new connections. We were delighted that over 80% of our attendees made new or useful contacts, which we hope translates into new opportunities and collaborations.  

I was genuinely surprised about how many useful discussions I had and the connections that I made. I head up an early stage start-up, who is considering some collaboration with academic institutions, and from signposting, to financial and legal support, as well others, there was representation from all sectors, and I came away feeling glad I had attended.

2023 Attendee

Practical Business Support 

We were really proud to learn that 48% of attendees said they would do something new or different as a result of attending the Summit.

To unlock innovation, it is crucial to provide businesses with the tools and skills to apply new ideas so this year we had a range of masterclasses on tech adoption, attracting funding and finding the right support, delivered by IUK, SE and leading experts in immersive tech implementation.

Our ‘Support Village’ exhibition aimed to help SMEs find specialist entrepreneurial and innovation support across the Scottish Ecosystem and our ‘Legal Lounge’, hosted by one of Europe’s most innovative law firms, Shoosmiths, provided legal advice on a range of topics including raising capital, energy and intellectual property. Techscaler, the Scottish Government’s tech startup support programme, delivered by CodeBase, was also on hand for delegates needing startup-specific support. 

Adopting Emerging and Enabling Technologies 

The second top reason why people tell us they attend the summit is to understand how new technologies could help them to tackle business challenges. This year’s CAN DO Innovation Summit had a future tech theme, including insights on artificial intelligence (AI), the Metaverse and Web3. 

From the outset we wanted to make the Summit as practically useful as possible – showcasing 5 industry-led panels including a range of exciting Scottish companies who are driving forward clusters of strength, from space technologies, health and climate tech to digital and creative tech. They provided real-life, peer experiences of innovating human-centred products, services and business models with economic and social impacts. We also had representatives from key support agencies on panels to help attendees to navigate the rich, innovation-focused resources and support available in Scotland. Watch the Summit content on-demand

“Kudos to the organisers for curating an outstanding event that brought together tech visionaries and leaders. The insightful discussions on topics like the metaverse, AI in fashion, and the thriving Scottish space sector left me truly inspired. Connecting with fellow tech enthusiasts was a fantastic bonus. Looking forward to future innovation summits!”

2023 Attendee

Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility 

Innovation is also bolstered by diverse perspectives and experiences and diversity was important to us from the outset. We proactively discussed this with Summit contributors and our partners from across the Scottish Ecosystem. Advances in new tech raises issues around inclusion – such as AI ethics and making sure AI depictions are diverse – a hot topic which was also covered in the programme. Shoosmiths also ran a session on closing the funding gap for female founders (Read their insights on the day). We’re proud of the diverse and experienced line-up of speakers we’ve put together, with 53% of our speakers being female, including three female tech leaders as keynote experts.

In terms of delegates, 50% of our registered delegates identified as male and 46% female, with 3.5% preferring not to say and 0.5% identifying in another way. 18% of our delegates identified as BAME and 7% preferred not to say. 3.5% of registered attendees identified as a disabled person.  

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 as well as a dedicated quiet space for those who required it. Our web content met accessibility standards and was screen-reader friendly and all films shown were closed captioned.  

“Fantastic sessions at the CAN DO Innovation Summit today. I especially loved hearing about the future of the space industry in Scotland and how potentially far reaching it is across a lot of different industries (from an all-female panel, which is always great to see)”

2023 Attendee

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. The importance of this was reaffirmed through the feedback we received.  

“I left more informed and re-inspired to explore a health and well-being tech idea I have. And the fact it was free was what enabled me to be there given the stage of my business, so thank you.”

2023 Attendee

We also worked with partners such as Highlands and Islands Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise to help ensure more small businesses in rural areas were aware of the Summit. We live-streamed the content to help remove geographical barriers and welcomed 250 virtual attendees on the day from all over the world including USA, Asia and Africa and have seen over 1200 live stream content views (both during and after the event). 12% of our audience were from outside of Scotland.  

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 used Sli.do across our parallel sessions to enable delegates to ask questions without having to publicly take up a mic.  

We actively encouraged engagement and participation of young people in the Summit by inviting students in further and higher education to an exclusive opportunity to hear from, and meet, two global expert speakers from the Summit programme, in a private session during the event.  


We worked with our event management company to reduce paper waste, using an event app to communicate with delegates and only printing badges for delegates arriving on the day. We used recycled (and recyclable) bamboo lanyards. We used re-purposed GSC furniture and worked with the venue to keep the catering locally sourced and packaging recyclable and compostable, where possible.  

The Future of CAN DO Innovation Summit 

It’s an exciting time for innovation in Scotland. We punch above our weight in a number of industries, including space and the life sciences. We must now build critical mass across areas of competitive advantage. And to ensure we grow a responsible and resilient innovation economy, 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 help businesses tackle the industrial and societal challenges facing us. 

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 at: info@candoinnovation.scot 

Photographs by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000 www.martinshields.com © Martin Shields