2022-2023 has proven to be a strong year for the Interface team. We were delighted to welcome Amelia Whitelaw as Interface Director, and in the past year we have been working hard to ensure businesses have the right support at the right time to innovate and grow their operations. We are delighted to highlight key elements of our progress this year in our latest Annual Review.

Interface Annual Review 2022/2023

In this short video, Amelia shares a few observations of her first year with Interface. 

A new research and development facility in Dundee is set to help drive the next generation of visual effects technologies that will revolutionise the UK’s film, TV and performing arts industries.

The state-of-the-art lab is part of the Creative Industries Sector Vision, published today, which sets out the government’s ambition to maximise the potential of the UK’s creative industries so they generate an extra £50 billion for the economy and support a million more jobs by 2030.

Interface is part of a consortium, led by Abertay University, which has been selected by the UK Government as a preferred bidder to host one of four new labs specialising in the future of virtual production – a new cinematography technique using computer-generated imagery (CGI), augmented reality and motion capture to create virtual sets. Abertay has also been selected as a partner for a national lab, recognising the University’s academic expertise in the sector.

Located at Waters’ Edge Studios, the Dundee facility will bring together expertise from Abertay University, University of Edinburgh, 4J Studios, TechScaler by CodeBase and Interface.

Read the full announcement here – Network of ‘movie magic’ labs to keep UK on cutting edge of future visual effects technologies (abertay.ac.uk)

Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise Ivan McKee, and Interface are delighted to launch the second round of The Scottish Inward Investment Catalyst Fund, which is now open for applications. The fund, offered by Interface and the Scottish Government, is aimed at attracting businesses to invest in Scotland by establishing a partnership for research and development with universities.

Up to £10,000 will be awarded to six successful applications in this round, which closes on 11th November.

Watch the launch video, below, which features past winners NutriGo SA, who partnered with Abertay University, to develop a non-dairy yoghurt drink for the Scottish market.

To learn more about the fund, and to complete the application forms, visit our funding page. 

By Howell Davies, Sector Engagement Manager, Interface

Scotland is a progressive, outward facing nation which sees the opportunities for export and inward investment as key economic drivers.  Inward investment makes a significantly disproportionate and positive contribution to Scotland’s economy, and spurs innovation and improves productivity. We have global strengths across many sectors, often built on the excellence of our academic institutions working hand in hand with Scotland’s innovative businesses, leveraging our considerable natural and human resources.

At Interface we facilitate and develop relationships and opportunities between organisations both Scottish and those out with Scotland with the world class academic institutions here.  We support companies to identify relevant expertise and facilities, but also looked to encourage and broker relationships through funding opportunities.  One such fund is the Inward Investment Catalyst Fund (IICF) which was set up in partnership and thanks to the forward-thinking approach from Scottish Government. 

One such example of a company supported by Interface who recently based operations in Scotland as a result of facilities, expertise and a talent pool based around a university is Celestia UK. After a successful five month residency at Heriot-Watt University’s Global Research Innovation and Discovery (GRID) facility, Celestia UK, specialists in the advancement of state-of-the-art antenna systems used for tracking satellites, based themselves permanently in Scotland.

José Alonso, Chairman of Celestia UK’s parent company, Celestia Technologies Group, said:

“To fuel our growth, we’re able to build a team from a wealth of talent on the doorstep at Heriot-Watt and other universities, as well as from professionals within the Scottish space industry who value the location, facilities and beautiful environment of the Research Park.”

The IICF was launched in late 2021 to support businesses not yet located in Scotland but seeking to establish stronger ties with academia here.  Ultimately with the intention of landing inward investment projects arising or supported by the academic collaborations and relationships formed. 

So far this has seen 10 projects between companies and universities ranging from an aircraft manufacturer, to a green metals technology company in the U.S., and a probiotic drinks manufacturer from South Africa.  The seed funding provided is helping to establish the relationships, and, as well as the research and development carried out, it is giving the companies greater insight into other aspects of the Scottish landscape, such as further investment opportunities, supply chains and the skills base.

One high profile inward investor, Therme Group, have leased the 20-acre site next to the Riverside Museum in Glasgow with the intention of developing a wellbeing destination.   Operating alongside the resort, Therme are looking at options for setting up a “global centre of excellence” for wellbeing.

They were a successful applicant of the IICF working with the University of Glasgow where seed funding helped kick off the collaboration with a feasibility study which is continuing to develop into more in-depth work. The proposed new Centre of Excellence would stimulate inward investment through attracting additional research income and R&D-related employment directly into Scotland.

Interface continues to work with colleagues across Scottish Government, Scottish Development International and the academic institutions to support and encourage inward investment activity and look forward to seeing applications for the latest round of the Inward Investment Catalyst Fund which launches this month.

This article also appeared in The Scotsman.

Scottish food and drink producers have been awarded a share of £160k of funding for sustainable projects as part of an industry-wide commitment to net zero.

17 businesses from across the country have secured the funding from the Scottish Food & Drink Net Zero Challenge Fund for collaborative projects with Scottish universities to accelerate their journey to net zero. Primary producers, manufacturers and hospitality businesses were among funding recipients with projects with eight different academic institutions.

The fund aims to encourage businesses to take action on their environmental impacts in a meaningful way by partnering with world-leading experts and academics in engineering, manufacturing, biotechnology and data science that Scotland is blessed with.

Launched by Scotland Food & Drink Partnership and Interface in October 2021, the Net Zero Challenge Fund is a key initiative of the Scottish Government-backed industry Recovery Plan.

Jennifer McLachlan, Strategy & External Relations Senior Manager, said: “Congratulations to the recipients of the Net Zero Challenge Funding. Our industry-wide goal to reach net zero is ambitious, but by working closely with colleagues in academia, it is within our grasp.

“Food and drink businesses of all sizes have a role to play and innovation, like we’ve seen from the businesses receiving this funding, is happening across the sector. Reducing our carbon footprint isn’t just good for the environment, but it’s increasingly becoming a demand from consumers, retailers and wholesalers, so businesses need to adapt. Thankfully Scotland is already a leader in sustainable food production and with focused, collaborative efforts like the Net Zero Challenge Fund, we can protect both the planet and our bottom lines.”

David Thomson, Chief Executive Officer at Food and Drink Federation Scotland, added: “It is vital that the whole supply chain works together to deliver net zero food and drink products on our supermarket shelves. I was delighted to Chair the Scotland Food & Drink net zero taskforce which set out our industry’s ambition to work together to achieve that.

“Food and drink businesses across Scotland want to play their part – funding initiatives like this is a great start to helping businesses on their journey to net zero.”

Fiona Houston, Founder and SeaEO at Mara Seaweed said: “Seaweed absorbs around 50% more carbon than the tropical rainforest in its growth cycle; but as a company, we want to ensure that our manufacturing process is net zero so that we can fulfil our goal of offering the market products that are truly good for planet health and human health, end to end.

“The Net Zero Challenge Fund will allow us to ensure that we lower our carbon footprint on our processing while significantly improving our productivity and capacity so that we can scale our business and reach new markets. It’s a win-win for the environment and us as a business.”

The 17 recipients of the Net Zero Challenge Funding were:

Annandale Distillery
Matugga Distillery
Ardgowan Distillery & Briggs of Burton
Arbikie Distilling Ltd
Kilimo IoT Ltd
Caledonian Seaweeds Ltd & Seaweed Generation Ltd
Aurora Sustainability Group
Highland Coast Hotels
Grown Agritech Ltd
Dunnet Bay Distillers Ltd
Kinkell Farm Microgreens & Market Garden
Mara Seaweed
Blackthorn Salt
Soltropy Ltd
Sutherlands of Portsoy
North Uist Distillery

Academic Partner
Edinburgh Napier University
Heriot-Watt University
Heriot-Watt University
Heriot-Watt University
Robert Gordon University
James Hutton Institute

University of Aberdeen
North Highland College, UHI
University of Aberdeen
University of the West of Scotland
James Hutton Institute
Edinburgh Napier University
Edinburgh Napier University
Heriot-Watt University
University of Aberdeen
University of Highlands and Islands

The Scottish Inward Investment Catalyst fund has awarded £60,000 to strengthen ties between overseas businesses and universities in Scotland.

The fund, launched by Interface and Scottish Government in December, supports Scotland’s ambition to be a leading destination for inward investment aligned with our values as a nation, as outlined in Scotland’s Inward Investment Plan: Shaping Scotland’s Economy.

Six companies, headquartered in Europe, the U.S. and South Africa, will collaborate with a range of Scottish universities with a view to establishing operations in Scotland. All of the collaborative projects will support a net zero, health and wellbeing economy with the principles of fair work and sustainable, inclusive growth. 

The successful projects include:

OXLABS Ltd is developing habitaHub, a home wellbeing monitoring service to support greater independence for those with assisted living needs. Heriot-Watt University is collaborating with the start-up using know-how, tools and facilities in the National Robotarium’s Open Ambient Assisted Living (OpenAAL). The research will help OXLABS to refine its prototype and conduct initial development of machine intelligence algorithms that can be used to track health progression and deterioration in OXLABS’ customers, acting as a springboard to the launch of its operations in Scotland.

U.S. green energy disruptor, Evolve Hydrogen Inc, are developing a novel bespoke polymer material that enables direct electrolysis of seawater without the need for desalination. This project will make use of the electrochemical engineering expertise at University of Strathclyde to characterise the material. Evolve™ green hydrogen technology will be a game changer for energy transition and the decarbonization of transport. Successful development will lead to the establishment of a Scottish manufacturing base to serve European markets.

South African company Nutri-GoSA Pty, a spin-out from Tshwane University of Technology, develop and distribute a sustainable, highly nutritious gluten free and dairy free sorghum based probiotic drink, Niselo®. Collaborating with Abertay University, this project will use the university’s technology, consumer tasting panel evaluations and review food safety and regulations allowing the company to invest in the production of their product within Scotland and to expand into UK and European markets. 

In welcoming the announcement of the award winners, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, Ivan McKee, said: “Our ambition is for Scotland to be a leading destination for inward investment that aligns with our core values as a nation. Science in Scotland is cutting edge and truly excellent in global terms, our higher education institutions and academic strengths play an important role in attracting inwards investment.

“The projects chosen for Inward Investment Catalyst Fund support align with the opportunity areas identified in our Inward Investment Plan where Scotland’s strengths meet global demand, and will play a role in helping deliver a fair, sustainable, inclusive and low carbon economy.”

Dr Siobhán Jordan, Director of Interface, said: “These projects represent exciting new collaborations between world leading researchers in Scottish universities and a range of international companies.  Accessing the technology and talent of universities combined with support networks including Scottish Development International and Skills Development Scotland will lead to new jobs and company growth in Scotland.”