Cranes ready for construction
Siobhan Jordan

By Dr Siobhán Jordan, Director, Interface

Photo by Suzy Powell

Rehabilitation, recovery and re-imagination offer businesses a path out of lockdown as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild Scotland’s economy, social wellbeing and education.

The Scottish Government-convened Advisory Group on Economic Recovery issued the findings of its review on Scotland’s economic recovery last month (June), focusing on the period after the immediate health emergency created by COVID-19. So just how do we rebuild Scotland’s society and economy, whilst making it more resilient and able to bounce back should something as far-reaching as this pandemic happen again?

The report, Towards a robust, resilient wellbeing economy for Scotland, led by Benny Higgins, offers 25 recommendations which will help the economy to recovery across sectors and regions throughout Scotland.  Education is firmly at the heart of the proposals.

It opens with an old Scandinavian proverb: “Those who wish to sing, always find a song.” This chimed with my recent blog about the challenge of encouraging regional economic growth – in it I cited the words in the inspiring musical Les Misérables: “Do you hear the people sing…Who will be strong and stand with me?”.

Does recovery mean returning to where we were in February 2020 or should we use this time to reflect on what might be possible?

As the UK begins to recover from the health impact of COVID-19, there is a rare moment when change is possible.

What will it take to build a more resilient economy with innovation at its centre?  Can the “reset and reimagine” planning currently underway to support recovery address imbalances and offer inclusive approaches?  Or in the race to get going again, will well-meaning intentions be swept aside and the current imbalance challenges be even more exacerbated?

Since March, the team at Interface has quickly adapted to offer many strands of businesses support by linking companies to COVID-19 funding opportunities; running a series of webinars focused on some of the hardest-hit sectors, such as tourism and food and drink; and inspiring many businesses as to the art of the possible with the input of our world-class academic institutes. We are also working with our university partners on what more we can do to translate propositions from research-ready businesses with ambitions to turn ideas into invoices, which in turn can make a positive impact on regional economies and society.

Universities are not only open for business but open to business as they play their essential role in supporting economic recovery on a national level as well as a local level.

An education-led recovery can be interpreted in many ways.  For the team at Interface, creating greater connectivity between industry and Scottish universities and colleges lies at the heart of an education-led recovery.  The benefits are many; for students and graduates undertaking collaborative projects with industry as part of their coursework, this will help them develop the metaskills sought by employers, or even give them a taste of what it is like to run a business, kindling their entrepreneurial spirit to establish a new company.  

For employees within businesses, adopting new skills through flexible online delivery by universities and colleges will allow them to gain competitive advantage. For example, digital marketing will encourage many retail businesses to retain an online presence and proactively engage with their customers long after the shop doors are open again.

If education is at the heart of recovery, then it must go hand in hand with entrepreneurship and innovation; never has it been a better time to support strong relationships between businesses and academics to partner for prosperity. The rapid response matchmaking undertaken by the Interface team in the past few months shows what can happen – exchanging knowledge for the greater good can truly deliver impacts – new products, processes and services; safeguarding and creating vital jobs and skills.

Recovery is within our grasp – and I, for one, know that together we can build back better. 

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Is your business interested in working with a university for research and development? We have connecitons into all universities, colleges and research institutes in Scotland. Please contact us to find out more. 

10 July 2020