Five Point Plan for Innovation

Delivery of our action plan

In 2015 our members worked collaboratively to develop a set of actions – a Five Point Plan for Innovation – of additional work they could do in partnership with business and public sector agencies. Here we present highlights of the activities and impact of this work.

As of late 2017, we have also delivered Innovation Scotland Forum action plan and continue to undertake activities through the Scottish Government’s CAN DO action plan (including our work through business schools).

Taking each element of the plan in turn:

1. 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.

In 2015 we met with the Chairs of a number of Industry Leadership Groups (ILGs) to understand key requirements across sectors. The key outcome from this was that talent is crucial. We’re working hard through our Making it Happen action plan to develop enterprising and entrepreneurial graduates.

We continue to engage with businesses via numerous routes, including: formal reviews, such as the NCUB Growing Value Scotland Taskforce with industry and university leadership; engagement with the Scotland CAN DO Forum; and, work with Innovation Centres. Innovation Centres are industry-led and hosted by universities. We have established the Innovation Centre Admin Hub Group to share best practice.

2. Harmonise and simplify contract, project and partnership negotiations through the development and adoption of business-friendly template contracts and agreements.

We have created 5 common contracts for all 19 universities to use on high-volume innovation interactions with Scottish businesses. This will deliver more consistency & simplicity for business. They will be tested and rolled out in the coming months.

Universities have adopted a shared contract & guidance for Interface’s Standard Innovation Vouchers so businesses have the same experience with every university. 125 Standard Innovation Vouchers were issued in 2015/16.

3. Simplify business access to university knowledge and support an informed understanding of the knowledge exchange process.

Universities and business leaders involved in the Innovation Centres meet at least twice a year. This supports effective partnerships and the continued success of the programme. The Innovation Centre programme was independently reviewed in 2016 and deemed to be ‘on the right track’ to deliver the vision of ‘open communities’ of researchers and businesses to deliver economic growth. We are working with SFC, Scottish Enterprise and HIE to deliver the recommendations of the review.

We have developed a post-project referral protocol to ensure businesses are referred on seamlessly to the next appropriate part of the innovation support ecosystem. This helped to streamline referrals between Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Interface and universities.

Businesses reported 100% satisfaction with academic support for innovation in the 2015/16 Interface evaluation of Follow-on Innovation Vouchers. 89% continue to work with the university on innovation.

4. 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.

Interface, working with HEIs, launched a new Specialist Facilities Platform in February 2016. We have mapped over 1200 pieces of equipment from across HEIs to support businesses to create, develop, test and analyse new products, processes and services. Business interest in using university facilities to innovate has increased by 271% in 2016/17 compared to 2013/14.

Universities and Interface are working together to promote – this is a collaboration to showcase new technology opportunities which are available from each of the member universities.

Interface run the annual Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards which universities support through exhibition and engagement. This event includes workshops to promote and explain successful university-business partnerships.

5. 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.

Scotland is the best part of the UK at creating spin-out companies. To keep our edge, we now have a statement of shared principles for spin-out company formation. This helps staff and business partners know what they can expect from us.
HEIs have agreed a standard approach for the interaction between HEIs and Scottish Enterprise for the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Enterprise Fellows scheme. The Fellow­ships provide a year’s salary to develop a full business plan based on an innovative idea and seek investment with training, access to mentors and business development funds.

Enterprise Campus, created for students in 2014, has delivered 86 student start-ups across the university sector.

Converge Challenge has grown the incorporation rate of staff, student & graduate projects into companies to 40% by 2016, up from 30% in 2015. Converge is a Scotland wide HE company creation development programme. Converge’s companies support 180 Scottish jobs.

Next steps

Through our work over the past few years over various action plans we have learned a lot to help us work with businesses and public sector agencies. This has influenced the development of the new Universities Innovation Fund which focuses on continuous improvement and collaboration. There are a number of developments including the UK Industrial Strategy, City Deals or the outcomes of the Scottish Government Enterprise and Skills Review which we are working on with our partners.

Download a summary of all of the #Business-minded actions we have delivered over the last two years.

Key Points:

  • In 2015-16 Scottish HEIs had over 32,000 knowledge exchange interactions with public, private and voluntary sector organisations, over 21,000 of those based in Scotland.
  • In 2015 we developed an action plan to help to improve our interface with businesses and support Scottish innovation
  • By 2017 we have completed our own action plan, alongside significant work under the Innovation Scotland Forum action plan to support academic-business collaboration working with Scottish Funding Council (SFC), Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Interface.
  • We are confident we have responded to recommendations from industry and look forward to further engagement to maximise Scottish HEIs contribution to economic impact in Scotland.


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