This grant aimed to explore the potential for innovation clusters in Scotland’s social care sector and the role of public sector investment in supporting such development. The research focused on the possible role of the National Care Service in stimulating innovation in social care delivery.
The bulk of our findings in this report come from discussions with social care sector stakeholders. We spoke to academic experts from the University of Edinburgh, University of Strathclyde and the London School of Economics and Political Science, along with those involved with innovation centres and the NHS. We also heard from technology companies such as Mydex CIC, CodeBase, Carezapp and HelpFirst. Critically, we also heard from public sector bodies and care providers such as Social Work Scotland, Scottish Commission for People with a Learning Disability, Care Inspectorate, Blackwood Homes, HRM Home Care and Abbotsford Care.
The research encountered several challenges, including the lack of compelling evidence in the existing academic literature on innovative procurement practices and innovation in social care. There is a consensus that public sector procurement can spur private-sector innovation, but the impact is sector-specific and is hampered by challenges like funding, contract size, and government policy.
International evidence reveals few feasible models for innovation adoption in public services and social care, but some participants proposed considering the Accelerated National Innovation Adoption (ANIA) Pathway for the NHS as a potential model for social care. However, the ANIA is currently very health-focused and would require investment to ensure that social care is properly represented.
There is a clear need for better data usage in the National Care Service, with personal data stores being a favoured solution. However, consensus around other needs is lacking due to barriers like the digital skills gap among the workforce, limited access to devices, and poor connectivity.
Existing social care infrastructure does not fully support innovation adoption and diffusion, with issues like the lack of digital skills among frontline workers and management, and the absence of basic physical and software infrastructure. Despite these challenges, participants were optimistic that on-the-job training could overcome resistance to technology adoption.
Scotland’s innovation assets and entrepreneurial infrastructure do support social care innovation, but engagement is patchy and not representative of the sector as a whole. A gateway or hub for social care innovation could help bridge the gap.
Scottish universities provide valuable skills for innovative activity, but their research does not seem to focus on delivering innovations in the social care sector.
Venture capital (VC) was generally seen as unsuitable for the social care sector due to issues like the complexity of the customer journey, a highly regulated environment, and the slower pace of the industry. Grant funding was seen as necessary, but government support should be more targeted and include industry involvement.
In conclusion, the lack of good international examples of innovation adoption in public services and social care provides an opportunity for Scotland to lead the way in this field. Robust monitoring and evaluation of interventions will be crucial to adding to the international literature on innovation adoption.
Read the full report here.
Mairi is the Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute. Previously, she was the Deputy Chief Executive of the Scottish Fiscal Commission and the Head of National Accounts at the Scottish Government and has over a decade of experience working in different areas of statistics and analysis.
Adam is an Economist Fellow at the FAI who works closely with FAI partners and specialises in business analysis. Adam's research typically involves an assessment of business strategies and policies on economic, societal and environmental impacts. Adam also leads the FAI's quarterly Scottish Business Monitor.
Find out more about Adam.