Scotland’s SMEs boosted by university links

Universities are at the forefront of Scotland’s economic recovery from COVID-19 with their innovative partnerships with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) being given a special focus.

As part of a UK-wide campaign from Universities UK, Getting Results highlights the ways in which universities are aiding sustainable economic growth through their partnerships with businesses, charities and government. This latest phase of the campaign is focusing primarily on the intersection between SMEs and universities.

SMEs play a pivotal role in Scotland’s economy, with over 340,000 companies supporting over a million jobs. This represents over 99% of private sector business in Scotland.

Universities are a strong partner to Scotland’s SMEs and well-positioned to help SMEs through the recovery:

  • Scotland’s universities work with over 20,000 Scottish businesses every year
  • 94% of universities have an enquiry point for SMEs to aid businesses looking for help
  • The pandemic saw a rise in SMEs seeking to innovate with universities. There was a 16% annual increase in the number of collaborative research and innovation projects brokered through Interface between universities and SMEs.[1]
  • Projecting over the next five years, universities are expected to provide £1.2 billion of not-for-profit support to businesses, including SMEs, and charities.[2]

Commenting on the strategic importance of research partnerships between universities and SMEs, Universities Scotland Convener and Principal of the University of Stirling, Professor Sir Gerry McCormac said:

“Universities are here to support Scotland’s SMEs bounce back from the disruption of the pandemic, towards a strong recovery and to help them create positive opportunities in the race to net zero. Research and innovation is increasingly important for every organisation, whatever their size or sector, and SMEs don’t need an in-house team as they can link to universities for this expertise. It has never been easier for SMEs to find the right connections in our universities and the growing number of partnerships created throughout the pandemic really highlights this.”

Higher and Further Education Minister Jamie Hepburn said:

It is vital that we support small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) which are at the heart of Scotland’s economy, making up 99% of all businesses in Scotland and employing 56% of our workers. Our universities also have an integral role in supporting the economy and SMEs, with the Getting Results Campaign playing a key part in this.”




[1] Interface Online (2021) The Year in Review 2020-21

[2] Universities Scotland (2021) Getting Results. P 4