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Hutton’s entrepreneur in residence, George Lindsay

George Lindsay
The James Hutton Institute
"I was given the opportunity to take these wonderful ideas from clever scientists, looking at them to see if they have any commercial legs, with the possibility of adding value to the institute, their founders and wider society"

This article first appeared in Insider online on 21 April 2023

At the beginning of this year, the James Hutton Institute appointed a new entrepreneur in residence – a man with more than 30 years of global business experience, George Lindsay.

In this new role, he will be working with the scientists at the institute to commercialise their discoveries, taking them from concept to commerce.

Over a long and varied career, Lindsay has gradually honed in on agricultural technology as one of his areas of interest, which made the position particularly relevant. Among other things, he's currently working on projects helping to certify carbon credits for businesses and developing applications for gene sequencing.

There was also a certain allure to such a "fancy title", as well as the fact that he had recently moved back to the east coast of Scotland after a long stint living in the United States.

"So four and a bit years ago we moved back, and as my daughter lives near Dundee, we moved there to be closer to her and the grandkids.

"I was in the software business over there - I'm actually still on the board of the company I worked at - but I elected to set up a small consulting practice, as I wanted to help start-ups and small companies on their way.

"It's called it Waypoint Scotland, as I’m a bit of a sailor, so felt that small companies are never that interested in the destination, they're more on the journey, with the excitement of their venture; so this was to help them with some direction on their path."

Lindsay worked with several growing Scottish firms and also got involved with the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute at Edinburgh University, where he was assigned a few young companies to help.

"My background was in agricultural software and it just so happened that I met with Jonathan Snape, the managing director of the commercial arm of the institute.

"After that, he called me to help on a couple of small projects looking at agritech trends, and before long it came to the point where he asked me to join them, as someone to help possible spin-outs.

"I was given the opportunity to take these wonderful ideas from clever scientists, looking at them to see if they have any commercial legs, with the possibility of adding value to the institute, their founders and wider society."

Since the start of 2023, Lindsay has been assisting and advising several projects that show promise, two of them working under the Scottish Enterprise Fast Growth programme, so that they can hopefully get to company formation level.

He explains that while it's not his role to actually get involved with the fledgling businesses directly, there's a lot of work to provide that initial kickstart.

A few weeks ago there was a postgrad conference at the institute, in the centre for PhD coaching, with several hundred of them and lots of great ideas on show - so I take those nuggets and discuss their objectives.

"I was part of a Dragons’ Den-style competition, which was good fun."

In the work Lindsay has been doing so far, the big trends are sustainability and carbon management.

"The agritech sector is almost totally focused on improving the way we farm, driven by consumer demand," he explained, noting that the company he worked with in the US - Adopt-Ag - specialised in predictive analytics, helping to pick the best field to plant a given crop.

"We were trying to create models to improve yield, sustainability and quality of the crop; the latter is becoming increasingly important, as demand increases around what people are eating and whether it's good for them."

One of the most successful start-ups Lindsay has been involved with since moving back has been SilviBio, which works on seed and soil performance technology, with his mentoring helping a new focus on the forestry side of things.

Another of the institute's start-up projects is building an online carbon measurement tool, aggregating data to predict how much carbon a particular field or forest will sequester. "It’s a pretty clever system, which should eventually be able to become autonomous - which is particularly helpful, as famers don’t want to be plugging data into a system continually."

Lindsay adds: "Another big project I’m currently working on is a potential spin-out on RNA sequencing, taking DNA strands and cutting them up - to be honest, the first pitch is often somewhat incomprehensible, so I'm there to help the scientists put things in layman terms, polishing their first few presentation slides - explaining that what they're really doing is 'curing cancer' or ‘finding a new way to feed the world’ - working out the key applications, rather than the technical details."

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Printed from /news/hutton%E2%80%99s-entrepreneur-residence-george-lindsay on 11/12/23 04:03:47 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.