St Andrews Innovation – transforming academic excellence into commercial breakthroughs

Economic Transformation in our Nation

Universities have a strong culture of delivery which aligns closely with the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation. We’ve curated a set of 19 stories to show how universities support people, businesses, industries and Scotland’s regions towards economic transformation.

Eden Campus is home to a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem

The University of St Andrews Eden Campus is the home of innovative ideas and enterprise, where change makers and bold thinkers can come together and collaborate, supported by high-class facilities and seamless professional services. Based in North East Fife, Eden Campus is a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem focused on making connections between industry, academic and professional staff and students and siphoning the University’s academic excellence into sustainable, social and commercial breakthroughs.

Jayshree Johnstone is Business Development Manager for Industry. Her role is to support the many businesses based at the Campus, connecting them to academic experts to create successful partnerships. Jayshree says:

“The services we offer businesses and the academic community is to help them develop their ideas and business plans and to identify suitable external funding,”

NuCana plc, is one such company. A Nasdaq-listed, Edinburgh-based, clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing new treatments for cancer, NuCana was established in 2008 with 33 employees, NuCana has collaborated with the University of St Andrews, via the Eden Campus and the Schools of Medicine, Biology and Computer Science. Together, they have developed techniques on cell and molecular analyses, tissue diagnosis and histopathology, mass spectrometry, image analysis and artificial intelligence.

Eden Campus also has a focus on developing and supporting entrepreneurialism. That involves supporting spin-outs like Lightwater Sensors and running a programme of enterprise education for students and staff  to help entrepreneurial culture to thrive.

Lightwater Sensors is a spin-out from the University focused on the protection of clean drinking water worldwide. Founded by Dr Ross Gillanders, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Physics & Astronomy, the innovation stemmed from optical chemical sensors originally developed for explosives detection. As the technology matured, the team realised it could have a significant impact on water quality monitoring, particularly for real-time detection of specific pesticides and pharmaceuticals.

The Entrepreneurship Centre team at Eden Campus have worked closely with Dr Gillanders to spin-out, identify markets and customers, and find funding. Dr Gillanders says:

“I had no idea where to start. I was able to find out the steps to take us from the lab to the field. We can have a big impact.”

Supporting the next generation of entrepreneurial talent, the Entrepreneurship Centre runs three main programmes for students, over eight-weeks, during the academic semester, with a focus on developing practical-commercial skills. The FastStart Innovators programme is focused on for-profit ideas, the FastStart Changemakers programme is focused on supporting the development of social entrepreneurship and FastStart Design Thinking is a grounding in the innovation process.

Key Points:

National Strategy for Economic Transformation theme: Productive businesses and regions; Entrepreneurial people and spirit

Institution: University of St Andrews

Location: Guardbridge, Fife

  • The Eden Campus ecosystem builds connections between industry and Univesity students and staff.
  • The Centre supports University spin-outs who have collectively raised £1.2m in non-dilutive funding over the last 16 months.