Search is on for Scotland's next generation of social innovators

A search has been launched for the next generation of Scottish social innovators

Delivered by social enterprise agency Firstport, as part of the Scottish Government’s 10-year Social Enterprise Strategy, the Social Innovation Competition offers three £5000 prizes along with tailored business support to the most exciting, innovative ideas tackling social issues.

The Social Innovation Competition – which opens for applications today (9 August) – celebrates and supports individuals and start up companies in Scotland that are using their creativity and imagination to solve pressing social issues, focusing on culture, heritage and tourism. This is particularly relevant as Scotland celebrates the 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

The winners, including one young social innovator, will be announced at an awards ceremony in the Scottish Parliament in November and receive £5000 alongside support from Firstport, Scotland’s agency for start up social entrepreneurs and social enterprise.

The competition was launched yesterday at Bottle of Ginger, a community drinks company in Bridgeton, Glasgow, which aims to change the local “juice” culture by involving the local community in challenging consumption habits, redefining ‘ginger’ and rethinking the whole manufacturing process, from the way ingredients are sourced to how packaging is reused.

Karen McGregor, Chief Executive of Firstport, said: “The Social Innovation Competition is an exciting opportunity for anyone developing a new product or service that is tackling a social issue to get recognition and support to move it forward. We hope people all over Scotland will realise and appreciate how social innovations have massively improved the way we live our lives and think about they can make a difference to their own communities”.

Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, said: “Social entrepreneurs are driven by an overriding passion to improve local communities as well as the world in which we live. Therefore I am delighted that the Scottish Government is supporting Firstport’s Social Innovation Competition.

“There are already more than 5,000 social enterprises operating the length and breadth of Scotland, with more than 200 new start-ups every year. Competitions like this not only encourage the creation of more social enterprises, they contribute to making us a more innovative, fair and equal country.”

Firstport has already worked with many Scottish social innovators to help them get their ideas off the ground, including Bottle of Ginger, and Uist Wool, a spinning mill & wool centre in the Hebrides.

The winners of last year’s inaugural Social Innovation Competition were Studio Pop (Young Social Innovator), Pianos on Prescription and Gold Handmade Footwear.

Firstport will be holding a series of information sessions around the country, including Stirling, Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow, over the next two months. Anyone should visit for more information. Applications close on Monday 9 October.


For more information, contact Carol Stewart or Jess Gray, 0131 558 2724.

Editor Notes


Established in 2007, Firstport is Scotland’s development agency for start-up social enterprise. We offer a full package of free business support and resources that includes start-up funds, business advice, practical tools and connections.

Firstport delivers an awards programme, which distributes money from the Scottish Government’s Social Entrepreneurs Fund. Firstport is also part of the Just Enterprise consortium, with responsibility for providing business support to start-up social enterprises across Scotland.

In total, Firstport has supported over x budding social entrepreneurs and helped to create two new social enterprises every week. More information is available at

Social innovation

There are many definitions of social innovation, but in its broadest sense, we are looking for entries that show that their ideas (product, service or business model) offer new solutions to a social need, or address a need more effectively or efficiently than existing solutions. The winning entries will also be able to demonstrate that their ideas will lead to a better use of assets and resources, new relationships and/or collaborations amongst sectors and society.

Case studies

STUDIO POP: Young Social Innovator 2016
Laura Petruskeviciute and Cristian Suau are developing DOT-TO-DOT, an innovative digital platform connecting people with projects to reactivate empty sites across Glasgow. With a background in architecture and community regeneration, their ambition is to promote a shared economy and a recycling design culture while improving the environment. Connecting the dots, the project brings together people from different generations and backgrounds to voluntarily participate through service exchange, financial donations or in kind materials and products donations. It enables people to be part of the local sharing economy as well as promoting new skills within the community. DOT-TO-DOT is being piloted in Maryhill and the Canal/Firhill basin.

Pianos on Prescription helps people experiencing difficulties including isolation, loneliness, depression, long-term health condition and poverty by offering free access to instruments and lessons in Glasgow. Patients with mental health or social problems are referred informally by GPs for tuition on pianos located around the city through the scheme, launched by Tom Binns, who founded and runs Glasgow Piano City. The Pianos on Prescription scheme aims not just to help people learn a musical skill but also receive one-to-one attention and be supported through a process of gaining greater connection with others.

A community drinks company based in Bridgeton, Glasgow, Bottle of Ginger aims to change local 'juice' culture by challenging consumption habits, redefining the product and rethinking the processes in soft drink manufacturing. Their ginger beer is inspired by the East End’s drinks manufacturing heritage, made to a traditional recipe using only natural, fairtrade ingredients: water, raw sugar, ginger & lemon. Profits from each bottle sold goes towards tackling food inequalities in the east end of Glasgow. Their aim is to set up a microbrewery and series of urban microfarms producing a range of local community drinks.

Square Peg was founded by Indie Flynn whose own challenging journey through dyslexia and dyspraxia led her to work towards changing the way young people who, like her, see the world differently are supported. Stirling-based Square Peg offers support and creative outlets for young people ages 5-25 with autism. Through animation, film and art workshops it aims to support families and young people with autism, helping their students grow and reach their full potential – “greatness through uniqueness” – and learn social coping mechanisms that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

SDX offers affordable retail space to artists, designers, publishers and other creative people to sell their products. Key to the business is making good quality artwork, fashion and products with strong designs more accessible to consumers at a reasonable cost.Instead of paying hefty commission fees for their sales, the artists purchase a space in the SDX shop in Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre in Leith, Edinburgh. Additional revenue is reinvested back to support clients and also in local community and school projects.SDX have successfully supported over 200 people and raised over £375,000 in sales since they began trading in August 2015. Additional support is given to these beneficiaries offering them business advice and support to ensure that they remain in self-employment rather than having a very low income.

Vox Liminis is playing a significant role in the rehabilitation of the criminal justice system in Scotland, by creating spaces where people involved in the criminal justice system – including prisoners, their families, criminal justice staff and local communities - communicate and connect in new ways through the arts, and can imagine a more positive together. They work with individuals and their families to build skills more likely to ease the transition back into mainstream society on their release from imprisonment. Glasgow-based Vox has won the trust of the Scottish Prison Service and other criminal justice services as a strategic partner. In the last year, over 160 people in the criminal justice system accessed Vox workshops with over 1200 members of the public (including families of those with convictions) engaging in Vox events.

Gillie Banks is an artisan spinner, dyer, and weaver in the Scottish tradition who taught her craft for ten years in her workshop on Bute. She has showcased her talents in various programmes on Bute as well as on the mainland and also worked with schools as part of the curriculum for excellence. Gillie’s vision is to keep her Scottish traditions alive through workshops, demonstrations, and lectures supporting the development of the heritage on Bute. She has been recognised and invited to attend by local fetes, festivals, rural institutes and community groups, including Achievement Bute Wee Den Weeks at Mount Stuart.