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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Gibson MSP

Rising to the Challenge

The ongoing coronavirus crisis is extremely challenging to live through. We can’t see our families and friends, support those who are dying, sick or grieving in the way they need and all aspects of life have been turned upside down. Yet, with the lockdown and social distancing likely to continue for some time to keep us safe, we adapt.

Governments, public service providers and businesses must adapt too and this leads to interesting solutions and innovation. Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation Ivan McKee MSP chairs a daily conference call encompassing NHS Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland and Scottish Government officials.

This group is tasked with engaging Scotland’s businesses to ensure the NHS and care sector swiftly secure priority items. This involves working with manufacturing companies to repurpose their facilities and engaging with sourcing, logistics and distribution to identify and secure additional equipment.

A complete supply chain has been built from scratch utilising Scottish companies to manufacture hand sanitiser at volume. This includes supply of alcohol from our drinks sector, conversion to sanitiser by chemical manufacturers and then bottling by other businesses for supply frontline services. A number of technical, logistical, regulatory and taxation issues have been successfully resolved to enable this.

Here in North Ayrshire, TR Bonnyman & Sons Ltd in Beith is playing its part. The company has manufactured hand sanitising gel free of charge for public sector workers and care homes and has supplied £120,000 of free product for NHS Ayrshire and Arran and North Ayrshire Council.

Work is ongoing to build Scottish supply chains for the manufacture of masks and gowns at volume. The confirmation of NHS contracts gives businesses the confidence to invest in specialist equipment and ramp up production.

Plexus, in Kelso and Bathgate, are manufacturing 8,000 ventilators to deliver across the UK and they – with other Scottish manufacturers– are supplying components and key sub-assemblies to other manufacturing consortia. JFD in Aberdeen and Inchinnan have leveraged their expertise in breathing equipment to design a new ventilator.

Many Scottish life science businesses are working to support the full testing supply chain, from manufacture and provision of kits, testing equipment and reagents to lab services and technical support. Prestwick Airport and Scottish logistics businesses have accelerated airfreight of equipment from overseas and Scottish Development International is working to resolve international supply and logistics issues.

The SNP Government’s CivTech programme normally examines the problems public sector organisations face and solves them in collaboration with innovative businesses. They use systems common in the private tech sector but rarely implemented in the public sector. CivTech now uses its strengths in terms of rapid, de-risked development and applied it to the COVID-19 challenge.

This means a host of public sector and tech experts are helping to resolve urgent problems faced during the pandemic for which there are no ready and easily accessed solutions, quickly providing answers which can be swiftly deployed. This is not the ‘standard’ CivTech approach of creating entirely new or highly innovative products or services over a four month period. Rather, this is about intensively developing solutions, testing and deploying them rapidly.

It just goes to show that in times of crisis, people rise to the challenge both on a professional and personal level.

Please continue to stay at home and work from there where possible, so that the impact of the coronavirus on individuals as well as on the NHS can be limited. It is difficult, but at least we know Scotland’s longstanding and world-famous talent for innovation and adaptability is saving lives and will help the pandemic pass, as it surely will.


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