Universities Scotland supports the Scottish Government’s ambition that Scotland should become a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovation nation.
Universities are keen to play their role in this agenda as fully as possible. We recognise that there is a need to enhance our innovation strategy and operations on an ongoing basis.
Working collaboratively, universities have developed a set of actions – a five point plan – of additional things we can do in partnership with business and support agencies.
- Engage in sustained dialogue with each of Scotland’s priority economic sectors through Industry Leadership Groups to ensure barriers to effective partnership are systematically identified and tackled.
- Harmonise and simplify contract, project and partnership negotiations through the development and adoption of business-friendly template contracts and agreements.
- Simplify business access to university knowledge and support an informed understanding of the knowledge exchange process.
- Raise awareness of the opportunities for business arising from university knowledge, including advocating the potential contribution to product and process innovation, in order to help stimulate the demand for innovation and problem solving from Scotland’s company base.
- Expand our role in company formation through enhanced start up and spin out programmes which draw on the intellectual assets and skills within Scotland’s universities.
A number of actions have already been delivered:
- Simplifying business access. Business referrals have been streamlined between Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Interface and the universities.
- Simplifying business access. A set of frequently asked questions has been developed for Scottish companies interested in working with universities on innovation.
- Harmonising contracts. Universities have agreed to work to standard contracts when using Innovation Vouchers.
There are actions that others can take to help form and grow innovation companies. They would include:
- Securing a strong supply of growth capital for emerging high-potential companies in Scotland.
- Scotland needs greater numbers of senior managers with experience of growing companies of scale. Scotland currently faces a significant skills gap here and thought should be given to attracting this talent to Scotland and growing our own.
- There needs to be a concerted effort to grow the number and range of Scottish businesses which have an appetite and readiness for innovation-led growth.
Innovation has been a priority for Scotland’s universities for a number of years. Even before the action plan universities were already contributing to Scotland’s potential as an innovation nation:
- Scotland outperforms many OECD countries for the level of investment in HE research.
- The research that Scotland’s universities undertake is independent judged as ‘world-leading’ and having ‘outstanding impact’.
- Knowledge exchange with the public, private and third sectors has been a priority for Scotland’s universities for many years. Interface, which partners universities and small and medium sized companies to work on innovation has been going for ten years.
- Universities are a key partner in 8 Innovation Centres with business.
- Scotland scores 5.7 out of 7 for university-business collaboration according to the World Economic Forum’s evaluation of global competitiveness.
- Our universities make ‘easy access IP’ available through an online portal in the form of University.Technology.com
Above: Alistair Cameron, Managing Director, centre
Alistair Cameron, Managing Director, Scotmas Group
As a growing business working on an international scale, we provide effective disinfection and water treatment solutions using Chlorine Dioxide expertise. When competing against global multi-nationals in a variety of business sectors including Oil and Gas, and Healthcare, we have to punch well above our weight in order to sustain and grow our business. Our ongoing engagement with Scottish Universities, and fresh ideas, have enabled us to do just that.
Programmes such as Interface have enabled us to seek out and engage with specialist researchers and access University facilities that would otherwise be unavailable to us. STEP programmes have provided us with a stream of enthusiastic, well qualified placement students who have been able to drive forward key projects. In addition, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships have allowed us to embed staff within Universities for a 2 year period with full access to academic resources and equipment.
Without the ongoing support and engagement of Scottish Universities, we would have been unable to achieve the sales success and export growth we have seen over the past years.