Interface on the North Coast 500 (NC500)

20th April 2017

As part of our “meet the team” series, this week we join Shaie MacDonald on a very special road trip. Shaie is a Business Engagement Executive for Interface in the Highlands and Islands.

I work with organisations to grow their ambitions by facilitating mutually beneficial relationships with academia. I spend my days travelling throughout the Highlands & Islands working with a variety of organisations to identify some of the most diverse and complex industry challenges.

If you have been lucky enough to take in any of the NC500 you will know it is sparsely populated, remote, has little phone signal and for most of it forget good, if any, internet service. With the popularity of the NC500 and the increased demand for high quality Highland goods and services, major challenges faced throughout the area have been amplified. For my clients these are innovation drivers, not growth inhibitors.

Thurso is home to Caithness Horizons, a small but diverse museum.  Through collaboration with The UHI Centre for Nordic Studies in Orkney, Caithness Horizons were able to deliver a series of events, which included a week long Viking Festival with encampment and demonstrations. The first of its kind in the area, it attracted over 9,000 visitors to Caithness Horizons – this compares to less than 2,500 visitors during the same period the year prior. The work that academic experts and Caithness Horizon’s undertook together has gained international recognition and has allowed Caithness Horizons to explore new ways to bring history to life.

Dunnet is home to Dunnet Bay Distillers and the iconic Rock Rose Gin, which has won numerous awards and gained recognition around the world. Dunnet Bay Distillers have sought academic assistance in a variety of projects including distilling process, packaging recycling, production waste reuse, sensors and water monitoring, and alternative packaging solutions. With help from Interface, Dunnet Bay Distillers are now able to be proactive in engaging academia to devise solutions to challenges they face. What started out as a part-time business in 2014 with a goal of producing 10,000 bottles in their first year, is now – three years later – producing around 5,000 bottles per month and hiring their eleventh and twelfth employees. Production is set to double this spring with completion of an extension to their existing facility and a new shop and visitor centre are due to be completed this summer.

Timespan, situated on the river Helmsdale, have engaged academia at University of St Andrews in a number of projects, including the development of a virtual museum, which includes a digital recreation of the township of Caen, a pre-Clearances village in the Strath of Kildonnan. The technology developed has been used in a number of other historical recreation projects since. These projects make historical information accessible and enjoyable for a diverse audience around the world. Timespan have engaged academia in a number of ways including joint collaborations and student placements.

These are just three organisations which have benefited from academic expertise in a variety of ways. Interface works throughout Scotland and specialises in matching academic expertise with industry challenges. Whether your organisation is in the remote Highlands or the central belt we can help you source academic expertise.