Minister learns how pupils benefit from business-academic partnership

Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, discovered first-hand how a partnership between a publisher of school study guides and a Scottish university has benefited more than 60,000 students and teachers.

The Minister was visiting Interface, the matchmaking service for business-academic partnerships, which introduced Bright Red Publishing to Edinburgh Napier University for a collaboration to create an online study platform to support their printed study guides.

The visit took place at Interface's Edinburgh office on Potterrow today (Tuesday 2 May), the first day pupils were sitting National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams.

The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Shirley-Anne Somerville, said:

“I would like to wish all our young people in the process of taking exams, the very best of luck and success.  It is no doubt a demanding and pressurised time for students, parents and teachers across Scotland.  

“I am encouraged to see that, in this increasingly digital age, there are a number of new ways of supporting student learning across a range of qualifications. It is particularly pleasing to see innovative companies like Bright Red Publishing, a multi-award winning independent Scottish company, develop and produce high quality Study Guides to help our students. With the help of Interface, the company has collaborated with Edinburgh Napier University to create a unique on-line Digital Zone that is already providing real benefits for students. This partnership is a clear example of the application of research and knowledge from our world-class universities in the development of new products and processes, helping companies innovate and grow.

“Interface performs a vital role in stimulating demand for innovation across all sectors of the economy connecting businesses to our universities and research institutes. Interface is well placed to identify the appropriate academic expertise to match and meet the demands of business.”

Siobhán Jordan, Director of Interface, said:

“I’m delighted that the Minister has been able to see what can be achieved from collaborations between Scottish universities and businesses and the impact these can have on people’s lives. This is a great example of how Bright Red Publishing and the academic team, led by Professor Bill Buchanan, both bring knowledge and skills to enable new product development benefiting teachers and students as they study for exams.  This is one example of the many hundreds of collaborative partnerships that we have facilitated supporting businesses to innovate and grow through universities expertise.”

Professor Bill Buchanan, the Edinburgh Napier University academic who worked with Bright Red Publishing, gave a demonstration of the new Digital Zone product.

He said:

“There are few things more important than the education of our next generation of scientists, engineers and business leaders. This project is part of a long-term collaboration between the university and the company. Overall it is a unique opportunity for us to apply machine learning into an educational environment, and thus to identify patterns of learning, especially focusing on identifying educational weaknesses. Our key focus is to match the learning environment to the pupil, and thus to provide an environment in which studying can be fun and challenging.”

Since its launch in 2013, the Digital Zone has had more than 60,000 users registered and over one million online tests have been taken preparing students for their official exams. Feedback from both students and teachers has been excellent.

In April 2017, Bright Red Publishing secured a Scottish Enterprise innovation grant of £83,351 towards the overall project costs of £128,000 for a feasibility study, which will create a new gaming environment in the Digital Zone, Game of Active Learning (GoAL).

John MacPherson, Director of Bright Red Publishing, said:

“Working with Interface has been a brilliant experience for Bright Red Publishing and through the team we have been able to access world leading expertise from Edinburgh Napier University to really step up our digital plans. The creation of the Digital Zone has proved a game changer for our business and paved the way to many exciting new developments, such as the GoAL project.”

The collaborations received funding through a Standard Innovation Voucher and Follow-On Innovation Voucher from the Scottish Funding Council.