Reaping the rewards of collaboration

Reaping the rewards of collaboration

As the judges consider the entries for the 2017 Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards, Interface begins to unveil the speakers for the accompanying showcase and celebration.

Big names from the worlds of business and academia have signed up as speakers and workshop leaders for the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards, which will be presented as part of a showcase and celebration on 21 February 2017 at Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS’s) Gogarburn head office in Edinburgh.

The keynote speaker will be Brigadier David Allfrey, chief executive and producer of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, while a panel discussion of previous winners will feature Martin Ruck, head of research and development at Aberdeenshire-based ingredients maker Macphie, and John Fuller, president and chief executive of materials handling supplier LoadFast Systems.

Speakers at this year’s inaugural event included: BQ Scotland cover stars Fiona and Magnus Houston, the directors of Inverness-based national seafood subscription service Fishbox, who have worked on the software that underpins their business with mathematicians at the University of Stirling; and staff from Timespan, a museum and arts centre at Helmsdale in Sutherland, which has worked with academics from the University of St Andrews on virtual reality displays to bring its site to life for visitors.

Entries for the 2017 competition closed on 2 December and the shortlist is due to be announced at the end of January. The awards are organised by Interface, the organisation that acts as a matchmaker for businesses that want to collaborate with Scotland’s universities.

Companies supported by Interface inject an estimated £70m into the economy each year through their partnerships with academics.

BQS26 Media Partnership Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 3

Next year’s finalists have some hard acts to follow. The winners at this year’s event included Payfont and Edinburgh Napier University, which scooped the innovation of the year award for together developing a ‘100% secure’ cloud computing-based architecture. The sustained partnership prize went to Glasgow-based solar thermal business Soltropy and Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, which started collaborating in 2013, leading to the development of a mass-produced, easy-to-handle, modular solar thermal panel aimed at the UK and European markets.

Two multi-party collaboration awards were handed out this year – one to the Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre, which is hosted by the University of Glasgow at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, and the other to the University of Strathclyde’s Technology & Innovation Centre (TIC) for its low-carbon power and energy programme, which has generated projects worth nearly £2.6m.

Laura Kreiling, a knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) associate from the University of Strathclyde, who undertook a 24-month project to significantly-improved engineering resource estimation at Falkirk-based bus builder Alexander Dennis, received the building skills award.

Steve Beaumont, former vice-principal for research and  enterprise at the University of Glasgow, was presented with the outstanding contribution to knowledge exchange award.
Beaumont was involved in the launch of Kelvin Nanotechnology, Compound Semiconductor Technology and the Glasgow Knowledge Exchange Fund, which aims to encourage and facilitate knowledge exchange activities throughout the University of Glasgow. He left his role as vice-principal in 2013 and is now the academic lead for Censis, the innovation centre for sensor and imaging systems.

“Universities are committed to making their knowledge, expertise and facilities have an impact in the world and working with businesses and other organisations on innovation is one of the ways they can do that,” explains Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, the body that represents Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions.

“Interface has been at the heart of creating many hundreds of innovative connections between business and academia and is a much-valued partner to the higher education sector. “The outcomes from previous winners are impressive; new products and processes are created, businesses grow and expand into new markets, additional funding and investment is leveraged and universities learn so much from the process. I look forward to being inspired, once again, by this year’s winners.”

Stuart Fancey, director of research and innovation at the Scottish Funding Council, the body that provides public money to universities, adds: “Innovation is vital to the future of Scotland and collaborations between academics and businesses are an essential part of that. The Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards are a fantastic way to recognise and reward these partnerships and achievements.”

Following the success of this year’s [2016] event, RBS will again host the showcase and celebration at the conference centre in its global head office at Gogarburn on the outskirts of Edinburgh. “We look forward to welcoming the applicants to the awards showcase and ceremony in February,” says Susan Fouquier, RBS’s managing director for business banking in Scotland. “We are delighted to once again support the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards.

“It offers a fantastic opportunity to showcase the great work being carried out here by the country’s academic and business communities. It is a real boost and inspiration to the organisations operating here and brings to light the need for strong relationships between the public and private sectors and the need for creating an eco-system which allows companies to flourish.

“Thanks to our support of accelerator hubs such as Entrepreneurial Spark and the development of our own nationwide network of business growth enablers, we understand the importance of such frameworks and why support at all levels is crucial for businesses to grow.”

For details of the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards, visit

The awards categories

Innovation of the year
For an innovative product, process or service that has been developed over the past three years. Finalists will consist of businesses that have been supported through the Interface and Interface Food & Drink brokerage service or via the Scottish Funding Council’s innovation voucher programme or Interface food and drink funding.

Sustained partnership
For a collaboration between an academic team and a business that has demonstrated long-term partnering and benefits to both the business and the academic teams through knowledge exchange.

Multi-party collaboration
This award is open to groups and consortia involving three or more parties working together on an innovative research project and include a research partner from Scottish academia and at least one business. 

Building skills through knowledge exchange
This award is open to postgraduate students or knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) associates who have been hosted or sponsored by businesses based in Scotland for a specific project that has led to increased innovation within the company as well as increasing the skills of the individual student or associate.

Outstanding contribution to knowledge exchange
Recognising an individual in academia, business or a business support organisation who has made an outstanding contribution and played a pivotal role in the promotion of knowledge exchange within Scotland.