Scottish universities team up to aid SMEs

Over 1,000 SME opportunities through new partnership between St Andrews, Edinburgh Napier and Queen Margaret Universities

SMEs in key priority sectors have injected over £7m in innovation and RTD (Research, Technology & Development) as a result of a unique academic industry engagement project involving three Scottish Universities. The Business Innovation Exchange project has also supported the development of over 50 brand new products and services and the significant improvement of over 150.

Business Innovation Exchange is a partnership between the University of St Andrews, Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Scottish Funding Council, that blends the expertise of modern and ancient institutions to provide SMEs with easier access to academic know how, facilities and intellectual property. It has been running for three years and focuses on seven sectors:

  • Computing, software & informatics
  • Creative & digital
  • Manufacturing and product design
  • Energy and renewables
  • Food & drink
  • Health, life and social sciences
  • Sustainable construction

Since the project began almost 200 SMEs have undertaken dedicated RTD and innovation projects and over 1,000 opportunities have been identified overall.

David Caughey, Business Innovation Exchange Project Manager, Edinburgh Napier University explains: “Significantly over fifty of the 250 projects the Business Innovation Exchange has delivered  to date have been from businesses returning after initial success on other projects. This illustrates long-term investment in innovation from these SMEs helping improve their competitiveness on an ongoing basis. We are delighted to see the successes that our business partners have been enjoying to date through working with us. Already we’ve seen jobs being both created and safeguarded and there is no doubt that there will be a lasting positive impact on sales growth too. Given the proportion of SMEs that make up Scotland’s economy – such a focus on innovation has to be encouraged.”

Kim Gilchrist, Head of Research and Knowledge Exchange Development from Queen Margaret University adds: “Our food and drink industry partners have derived some significant benefits from our research work, for example, accurate nutritional information which will assist them with labelling, product claims and marketing, and well as the development of innovative functional foods. We have recently assisted a food company in the development of a new salad dressing infused with Marine Algae. This unique product offers costumers some of the benefits associated with eating oily fish without actually having to consume fish. Our joined up approach to research, product development and commercialisation on this novel project is just one example of how we are helping SMEs innovate, develop new routes to market and create products which can improve health.”

Prof Malcolm MacLeod Vice Principal (Enterprise & Engagement) from University of St Andrews said: “The Business Innovation Exchange has allowed us to extend and enhance our outreach to, and successful collaborations with Scottish SMEs in a range of business sectors. In the renewable and alternative energy sector we continue to work with new company Town Rock, supporting its strategic business plan through our department of Geography and Sustainable Development advising on the company’s survey of geothermal hotspots in Scotland.”

Edinburgh Napier leads on five of the priority sectors covered by the Business Innovation Exchange project. An example of a key project led by Edinburgh Napier is with Bright Red Publishing, an Edinburgh based publisher.  It worked in collaboration with academics from the University’s Institute of Informatics and Digital Innovation to develop a ground-breaking online Digital Zone which offers pioneering online tests to students studying towards their National 5 Qualifications.

This phase of the Business Innovation Exchange project is due to conclude in July 2014.


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