Academic Know-How Boosts Business Turnover

A growing number of businesses are benefiting from collaborating with Scotland’s Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), figures released have shown.

Interface – The knowledge connection for business, matched more than 200 businesses to Scotland’s universities and research institutes to develop a range of products and services last year – a 19% increase in the number of businesses supported on the previous year.

The impact on the Scottish economy last year was £17m and those collaborations helped create 360 jobs across Scotland, including in rural areas. Most notably, it was also found that academic partnerships with Highlands & Island businesses contribute £3m to Scottish economy, with £2.2m staying in the Highlands & Islands.

Creative industries and businesses working in food and drink sector accounted for almost half the businesses involved in the academic collaborations assisted by Interface, with energy, engineering and technology making up around a quarter. Businesses working in tourism, life sciences, agriculture, social enterprises and chemical sciences also worked with academic experts on product or service developments.

Dr Siobhán Jordan, Director at Interface, said: “We are at a really exciting time for innovation in Scotland and Interface is playing a key part in making sure that businesses know about the benefits of working with the Higher Education Institutions, from testing new products or services to developing existing ones.

“There are some fantastic examples of this, from the development of a cascade chute system for transporting materials vertically, to a commercially viable tank-based seaweed cultivation system - both deserved winners of the 2014 Interface Excellence Awards.

“In fact, 79% of the businesses we have helped have seen an increase in turnover and a growing number have returned to work with academics and researchers to further develop a product or service, having realised the benefit from the first time round.

“Since we were established in 2005 we have had more than 2,700 enquiries from companies resulting in more than 1,000 collaborations.

“However, many companies are still unaware that they could work with higher education institutions in the first place, or of the knowledge, specialist facilities and technologies which exist and which could make a real difference to their business.

“Collaborations could range from simple product development using off the shelf technologies to ground-breaking research which can impact on an entire sector of industry.

“The businesses can bring a new aspect of research to a Higher Education Institute, and they can bring about solutions to real-life social issues, so these collaborations are mutually beneficial.

“Businesses can be concerned about the costs of working with universities and research institutions. There is a range of funding opportunities which Interface administers through Scottish Funding Council’s Innovation Voucher and Follow-On scheme, so I would encourage businesses to speak to us about what may be available to them.”