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Scotland wins when CENSIS and CivTech work together

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20 March 2024 | Paul Winstanley, CEO

Paul Winstanley, CENSIS CEO, discusses the partnership between CivTech and CENSIS, that includes CENSIS’s sponsorship of CivTech’s Demo Day 9 in May 2024.

CivTech was one of the first meetings I had when I came on board at CENSIS and our relationship has grown over that time. We’ve co-sponsored Challenges in the past and we continue to engage with the winning companies. It’s been one of those mutually supportive and beneficial collaborations, so when Mark Elliott (Head of CivTech) raised the question of sponsorship with me, I was delighted to help. It’s important to recognise that if you’ve got the capacity and the motivation to support, you should lean into that. This is always true, because collaboration is vital if we are to make progress, even more so when funding is tight for everyone and coming together produces so many benefits

I’ve been to several Demo Day events now and I really enjoy them. I like the fact it celebrates the winning companies, it’s not about us as sponsors. If we can be even a small part of their success, then that’s enough for us.

What I see in CivTech is opportunity. Our ecosystem intersects quite nicely with yours. If a product has the word ‘smart’ in it, we’ve probably had a hand in it at some stage. We’ve been doing some work with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, and it became clear to me that they had a much deeper interest in innovating as an emergency service. Now, there are elements of that innovation that we can help them with but also many things CivTech can do for them. So, we introduced the two and hopefully, in the fullness of time, we will see a series of Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Challenges emerging in future CivTech Accelerators. We’re all part of that same Venn diagram and it goes two ways because we also support the Accelerator, offering guidance to companies going through the process through different stage workshops.

The relationship is multifaceted because we’ve also been working together with CivTech and the Scottish Business Network (SBN) to build a GovTech cluster. Being part of an effective cluster is both beneficial for technological innovation and for individual business development: generating commitment, support, and all-important funding. And that, applied to the cluster activity, is a virtuous circle. Investment grows, companies grow and prosper, create more economic benefit, and so drive ever greater investment.

Seeing CivTech alumni companies succeed is hugely rewarding for us. It was great to see Rethink Carbon, a company we supported at the end of the Accelerator and helped to secure funding from South of Scotland Enterprise, launch their platform a couple of weeks ago. It’s not just seeing them flourish and create jobs but it’s the impact their tech could have that’s exciting. We saw their potential to revolutionise land management practices and went on the journey with them.

I’m hoping one of the companies CENSIS is working with right now, Aquanzo, will be our next great success story. The Edinburgh start-up has developed a modular farm system to enable growing of the artemia brine shrimp to feed fish and crustacea. Aquanzo describes its system, fuelled by food and drink by-products, as a “sustainable and decentralised alternative to producing a scarce fishmeal ingredient”. There is a crisis in fishmeal ingredients and we need to decouple aquaculture from maxed-out fisheries and find new ways of providing sustainable sources of protein to help the sector feed a growing world population. Another great example of innovation for the greater good.

It’s important to remember that this process is a marathon, not a sprint. Innovation doesn’t happen overnight. The journey from that initial idea to market and growth can be a long one but the Scottish tech ecosystem is evolving and if we pull together, we can demonstrate the strength of collaboration in fuelling growth and inspiring change. For that reason, we’re proud to be sponsoring Demo Day 9.