Brigadier David Allfrey at SKEAs

Brigadier David Allfrey at SKEAs

Inspiration strikes for winners in knowledge exchange competition.

Partnerships between businesses and universities were celebrated at the 2017 Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards.

As an entrepreneur, you never know when inspiration will strike. For Malcolm Wood, director of Fife-based fruit and vegetable wholesaler Ivan Wood & Sons, that “eureka moment” came in the middle of the night.

New legislation designed to protect the environment is now preventing fast food outlets from disposing of food and starch waste in public drains. Wood has helped to solve the problem with PeelTech, a compact system for filtering out starch. He developed the system in partnership with Abertay University in Dundee. The collaboration was arranged through Interface, the organisation that acts as a “dating agency” for businesses that want to tap into academic expertise.

Wood’s idea has been recognised with not one but two prizes at the 2017 Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards, which were presented at Royal Bank of Scotland’s conference centre at Gogarburn on 21 February. The first was the Innovation of the Year Award, with the judges noting the clear commercial opportunity in the UK and overseas – especially among fish and chip shops.

Lee-Anne McGee, a knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) associate from Abertay University, also won the Building Skills Through Knowledge Exchange Award for her work on the project. McGee redesigned and validated the filtration system, reducing waste materials and generating sales within the UK and Europe.

McGee implemented a food quality management system, which reduced the company’s costs. She also impressed the judges by developing a high-quality vegetable stock from the recovered starch to be sold to the food service industry.

The multiparty collaboration award was presented to the Flow Assurance & Scale Team, a collaboration between Nalco Champion, Shell UK and Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. The group came together in 2015 to improve “Squeeze”, game-changing software used extensively by the oil and gas industry all over the world to prevent scale from forming in wells.

The Sustained Partnership Award – which was sponsored by the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) – was won by Midlothian-based marine engineering firm MacTaggart Scott and Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, which began working together in 2011 with an undergraduate mechanical engineering design project and expanded to electrical and mechanical projects, including a KTP and studentships. The sustained partnership, which continues today, spanned several schools at the university including the Institute of Sensors, Signals & Systems.

Renfrewshire-based medical device manufacturer Vascutek and the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow received a “Special Commendation” in the sustained partnership category. Their work together has included research and development through three doctoral students and two KTPs, and has resulted in improved product design and new knowledge embedded in the company.

Professor Lee Innes of the Moredun Research Institute in Midlothian received the outstanding contribution to knowledge exchange award to celebrate her career, which has been built around knowledge exchange between scientific researchers and a broad range of stakeholders, including the livestock industry, Scottish Government and primary schools.

Siobhán Jordan, director at Interface, said: “We had some truly inspirational individuals and collaborations celebrated at the awards ceremony. The day was a fantastic showcase of what can be achieved when business and academia come together.
“The standard of entries was incredibly high and the judges had some tough decisions to make. Each of the finalists really demonstrated how collaborations can boost innovation, drive company growth to support the economy and position Scotland as a ‘Can Do’ nation.”

Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government minister for Business, Innovation & Energy, added: “I would like to congratulate all the nominees and winners who have been recognised for their outstanding work at the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards.

"The awards celebrate the knowledge exchange activities and projects that happen all over Scotland, bringing people together to further forge new partnerships and collaborations. These are truly innovative projects between our businesses and academia from all disciplines and are crucial for improving productivity and creating sustainable economic growth, whilst playing a vital role in shaping Scotland’s future.”

As well as the presentation of the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards, the gathering at Gogarburn included an inspirational speech by Brigadier David Allfrey, chief executive and producer at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Allfrey spoke passionately about the need for invention, innovation and entrepreneurship, and explained how lessons he learned in the army could be used in civilian life, while also pointing out how business people had taught him new tricks in his current career.

The event included a series of workshops led by Care Monitoring 2000, Eurobiotix, Marks & Clerk, Scottish Ballet and Sunamp. Each company and organisation spoke about the benefits of exchanging knowledge.

A panel of experts debated the state of the knowledge exchange landscape in Scotland and compared the nation’s drive for entrepreneurialism with that of emerging economies such as China. The panel consisted of: Pete Downes, principal of the University of Dundee; John Fuller, president and chief executive at Perthshire-based engineer and manufacturer LoadFast Systems; Alicia Greated, director of research and enterprise services at Heriot Watt University; and Martin Ruck, head of research and development at Aberdeenshire-based food ingredients maker Macphie of Glenbervie;

Two representatives from Reg Lab, a Danish regional economic development “laboratory” created in 2004, also attended the event. Reg Lab is studying Interface as one of five international best practice case studies.

And the winner is...

Winner: Ivan Wood & Sons and Abertay University
Finalist: Bon Accord Soft Drinks and Abertay University

Building Skills through Knowledge Exchange Award
Winner: Lee-Anne McGee of Ivan Wood & Sons and Abertay University
Finalists: Hassan Al-Budairi of QTS and the University of Glasgow; Dan Mulqueen of Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group and the University of Stirling

Sustained Partnership Award
Winner: MacTaggart Scott and Heriot-Watt University
Finalists: M Squared Lasers and the University of St Andrews; Vascutek and the University of Strathclyde

Multi-party Collaboration Award
Winner: Flow Assurance & Scale Team – Nalco Champion, Shell and Heriot-Watt University
Finalists: Mosaicing for Automated Pipe Scanning – Inspectahire, National Nuclear Laboratory, Sellafield, Wideblue and the University of Strathclyde; Campbeltown Milk Quality Improvement Project – Campbeltown Dairy Farmers, First Milk, SAC Consulting and SRUC Dairy Research & Innovation Centre

Outstanding Contribution to Knowledge Exchange Award
Winner: Professor Lee Innes, Moredun Research Institute
Finalists: Professor Bill Buchanan, Edinburgh Napier University; Professor William Ion, University of Strathclyde