Professor Lee Innes tells us about the importance of academic-business partnerships and why travelling helps people work together.
What gets you up on a Monday morning?
I feel very fortunate as I love my job and really enjoy the varied projects I am involved in and the fascinating people I have met through my work. On Monday mornings I am usually checking my diary for the week or two ahead and sorting out any travel plans and upcoming deadlines. I usually have a few projects on the go and I enjoy the more creative side of my job when I can collaborate with different people to help communicate science and new research findings to people and businesses that may benefit from innovative technologies.
What inspired you to work in academia?
I enjoyed university and, in particular, learning more about our immune response and how we can resist infection. When I graduated I followed this line of research specialising in developing vaccines against tropical parasitic diseases of cattle in Africa. I was lucky enough to get a job working in Africa for several years, which was a fantastic experience, and I continued my academic career on return to Scotland. I took a sabbatical year out of academia and spent it in Hong Kong. During this year I became much more interested in how to communicate science more effectively to others who may benefit from the new technologies being developed and took active steps to change my career to move more in this direction when I returned to Scotland.
Congratulations on winning the Outstanding Contribution to Knowledge Exchange at last year’s Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards – for you what is the importance of Knowledge Exchange between business and academia?
I was very honoured to win the Outstanding Contribution to Knowledge Exchange at last year’s Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards. I was delighted that the work we have been involved in at Moredun and the other Scottish Research Institutes to help communicate the benefits of new research and technology to improve food and water security, livestock and crop productivity, helps mitigate against climate change and sustainably manage our finite natural resources and has brought some real benefits to farm and food businesses in Scotland, whilst also having impact worldwide.
What benefits do collaborations with businesses bring to the Moredun Institute?
Moredun has a unique relationship with its key stakeholders as the Moredun Foundation was set up by a group of Scottish farmers over 100 years ago and is still owned and governed by farmers today so this special partnership has really helped focus the science to deliver technology that is useful and needed by the industry.
What do you think is the hardest thing for a business when it comes to collaborating with academia?
I think it can be hard for some businesses to collaborate with academia as it may not be easy for them to find out what academia may have to offer and while most academics are working on medium to long term goals, industry are often looking for more immediate solutions. Therefore, I think organisations like Interface are vital to help make connections between academics and businesses as there is so much to be gained from bringing academia and business together to help focus and harness new technologies to bring both economic and societal benefits to many people across Scotland and further afield.
If you could change the world, what would you do first? I would encourage everyone to travel and spend some time in another country to show people that we share more similarities than differences. We need to work together on some of the huge challenges we all face, such as feeding a growing population, combating infectious disease, managing and protecting our natural resources and safeguarding our planet for future generations. This year’s Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards takes place on 22 February. Through keynote speakers, innovation sessions, exhibitors and the award ceremony, the day’s celebration will reflect the breadth and range of collaborations among organisations from all sectors and of all sizes with our leading Scottish academics and research teams.