A CLYDESIDE laser technology firm is the first company backed by the new Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB), it has been announced.

The Edinburgh institution launches today. It’s backed with £2 billion of Scottish Government funding to run over its first decade and is charged with investing in businesses and projects that will help the country meet its 2045 net-zero carbon target, address postcode inequality and foster innovation in the private sector.

The proposal for its set-up was passed unanimously by MSPs in January and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has described the project as “one of the most significant developments in the lifetime of this parliament”.

Announcing its first investment – in Glasgow-based laser technology firm M Squared – chairman Willie Watt says the bank should not be seen as a political body.

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And he told the PA news agency that while profit targets for the bank will be set in the coming months, he does not expect money to be flowing into the bank for the first few years. Watt said: “I want it to become a trusted institution that is seen as being owned by the whole of Scotland – a non-political, cornerstone institution in the investment landscape in Scotland.

“I want it to have a list of really good investments against each of those three missions so we can look back and say that we actually invested against these missions.”

Funding will be provided in multiple forms, according to Watt, including through loans and equity purchases.

A supplier to the medical, space technology, oil and gas and advanced manufacturing sectors, M Squared makes light-based applications for quantum technology, biophotonics and chemical sensing. Its founder Dr Graeme Malcolm said: “Science and advanced technologies have a major role to play in Scotland’s future economic prosperity. By increasing investment in research and development with a mission-based approach, Scotland has a real opportunity to actively tackle climate change and benefit from the coming quantum revolution.

“We are delighted that the Scottish National Investment Bank has invested in M Squared as its very first business. Our shared commitments to society and the environment makes this an ideal partnership that will enable accelerated growth and progress in frontier technologies.”

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Sturgeon commented: “The Scottish National Investment Bank will help to tackle some of the biggest challenges we face now and in the years to come, delivering economic, social and environmental returns.

“It is hitting the ground running with its first major investment in M Squared – a great example of the ambitious and innovative companies we have here in Scotland that will be key to our economic recovery and future prosperity. The launch of the bank is one of the most significant developments in the lifetime of this parliament, with the potential for it to transform, grow and decarbonise Scotland’s economy.”