Hills and bridge near Peebles by Stephen Talas on Unsplash
Susan Harkins, South of Scotland Enterprise, smiling

By Susan Harkins, Head of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at SOSE (pictured), and Shelley Breckenridge, Business Engagement Manager at Interface

 Photo by Stephen Talas on Unsplash

South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) and Interface have joined forces to support business innovation and development in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.

We asked Susan Harkins, Head of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at SOSE, and Shelley Breckenridge, Business Engagement Manager at Interface, why the partnership is bearing fruit for the local economy – and beyond.

Starting with Susan, how important is working in partnership with other business support organisations for SOSE?

Collaboration is at the heart of SOSE, accessing partner expertise and knowledge for our enterprises in the South of Scotland helps add value to SOSE’s business support offering and opens up opportunities for our clients to engage with partner programmes.

Innovative and enterprising are key elements of SOSE’s 10-year economic strategy. Tell us a little more about how these will be implemented/encouraged?

S.H. SOSE is working across the South of Scotland to unlock innovation and entrepreneurship, with our partners such as Interface and introducing our new coaches who will work with individuals to unlock their enterprise ambition.

The role Interface plays in supporting businesses has been recognised by SOSE through partnership working and funding. How is that relationship bolstering innovation and enterprise?

S.H. Interface provide a fantastic service that makes it easier for businesses to engage with universities, the majority of our enterprises are micro who don’t have spare time and capacity to develop their innovation/ideas therefore the partnership with Interface provides our clients a pathway to work with universities to turn their innovative ideas and projects into a reality.

Moving onto Shelley, what more can be done to unleash the potential of businesses in the South of Scotland by tapping into the country’s academic offering?

S.B. The more businesses we speak to, the more that we can understand what challenges they are facing which academics could help with. I think understanding what we do and where we can help, will let businesses see the opportunities available. Our website is a good resource for information about who we are, how we work and funding opportunities. Initially, a chat always helps and we are always open to virtual, and real, coffees!

Which companies have already benefitted from this partnership approach?

S.B. We’ve supported businesses large and small, global and local, in a diverse range of sectors, from agritourism to food and drink to waste-water treatment. The businesses we’ve helped in the Borders range from one or two people, like family-run Beirhope Alpacas, who wanted to work with a university to help with their brand development, right up to medium sized enterprises such as Scotmas and ThermyFY/Shock Innovations on highly technical new product developments and testing. We can support community and third sector organisations too, the most recent example being Tweeddale Youth Association who were referred to us by SOSE and who we’ve linked into student groups at University of Glasgow to look at diversification strategies.

We also have Mari Findlay, our Business Engagement Executive in Dumfries and Galloway, and Ayrshire, who has supported business and organisations in the region for several years including Annandale Distillery to look at Net Zero Emission with Edinburgh Napier University.

Businesses in the Borders can contact Shelley Breckenridge, whilst businesses in and Dumfries and Galloway can contact Mari Findlay if they would like to find out more.

11 March 2022

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