Clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company EnteroBiotix recently received £27m of investment to enable the organisation to launch Phase 2 of their clinical trials. Congratulations to the business who were matched by Interface to work on collaboration projects with the University of Dundee and Glasgow Caledonian University. 

Congratulations to the following recipients of SMART grant awards granted to companies in Scotland from March 2023 to March 2024, as well as some matched by Interface companies that received major R&D grant awards over the same time period:

The Scottish Inward Investment Catalyst Fund has awarded a further £40,000 to strengthen ties between businesses based outside Scotland and Scottish universities.

Four companies, headquartered in the U.S., Finland and England, 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:

U.S. headquartered Neocycl, a green metals technology company, in collaboration with the University of Strathclyde, will assess the performance of their low carbon copper recovery process – £10,000 awarded.

Real estate and finance software company SkenarioLabs Ltd, based in Finland will collaborate with the University of Edinburgh to identify the analytics, factors and data information needed to develop and tailor their software platform for potential new markets – £9,700 awarded.

Bristol-based electric aircraft manufacturer Vertical Aerospace will use expertise from the University of Strathclyde to analyse and develop an understanding of degradation of carbon fibre when carrying electric current – £9,938 awarded.

London start-up tech company, Heat Wayv, will carry out a strategic feasibility review of the application of low carbon heating technology in Scotland’s new build and retrofit housing sectors, collaborating with the University of Edinburgh – £9,410 awarded. 

Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, Ivan McKee, launched the fund in December 2021 with a total of £100,000 over two rounds this year, aimed at attracting businesses to invest in Scotland by establishing research and development partnerships with universities. He said: “Attracting businesses to invest in Scotland is a key driver of the Scottish Government’s long-term economic wellbeing and prosperity ambitions. EY’s Annual Attractiveness Survey 2022 showed Scotland has already established itself as the UK’s top performing region for attracting inward investment, outside of London. For Scotland to remain competitive in the current challenging climate, we need ongoing close collaboration between our higher education institutions and industry in areas of our academic strengths.

“The projects chosen for the current phase of the Inward Investment Catalyst Funding align with the opportunity areas identified in our Inward Investment Plan, demonstrating that our evidence-based Plan to attract values-based investment is working. These projects also support the ambitions set out in our National Strategy for Economic Transformation to attract high quality inward investment and technologies required in emerging areas such as energy transition and the decarbonisation of transport and space.”

Howell Davies, Sector and Business Engagement Manager, Interface, said: “These projects are highly innovative and technical. They reflect the world-leading expertise Scottish universities have to offer international companies, particularly in key areas such as energy transition and decarbonisation of heat and transport.”

The Scottish Inward Investment Catalyst Fund will open a new round of funding in September. The announcement will be launched on our website, sign up to the Interface Newsletter to ensure you hear about this funding when it’s announced. Sign up here.

Mr Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, Youth Employment and Training, visited two companies with sustainability and environmental impact at the heart of what they do. These businesses have been supported by Interface, specialists in knowledge exchange, who connect innovative thinkers to Scottish academics.

First, Mr Hepburn visited a community interest company in Bo’Ness, Sustainable Thinking Scotland, which is discovering multiple positive uses of biochar, a by-product created by burning wood. The benefits include the removal of toxins from soil and water.

Later in the week he was shown the complete “lifecycling” process of IT equipment and devices carried out at East Kilbride-based Re-Tek. The company is at the heart of the Circular Economy drive in Scotland and are leaders in the IT disposal industry offering re-use as a secure, environmentally sustainable method of asset retirement. With strategic partners in Europe, America, and Asia, Re-Tek also employs almost 50 people in Scotland.

Both companies have enhanced their sustainability credentials following introductions from Interface to university partners, and they continue to work with academia on research and development projects helping to expand their workforce and secure business in new markets.

Mr Hepburn said: “I was delighted to visit Re-Tek and Sustainable Thinking and to see the excellent work that they are both doing. I was very interested to see how much support they had both been given by Interface who have facilitated connections between world class Scottish universities and companies in need of innovative solutions.

“The Scottish Government continues to support the accelerated translation of the outputs of Scotland’s excellent university research into practical improvements, business innovation and economic growth as well as environmental and societal benefits.”

Interface’s Interim Director, Laura Goodfellow, said: “It is a fantastic time for Mr Hepburn to see some of the work going on at two very different businesses who are working with Scottish Universities to achieve their environmental goals. They demonstrate the different ways in which a business of any size can tap into the expertise available within universities and how sustained relationships can develop out of initial projects.

“We recently celebrated our 3,000th collaboration between a business and university or college, so it is great to share our success story with the Minister and showcase some of the ways in which collaborative working is benefiting communities, the environment, and the economy.”

Sustainable Thinking Scotland Co-Founder, Sean Kerr commented: “There has been a massive acceleration in terms of the biochar project in the last year. There is no way we would have made the acceleration that we have without the support of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and Interface. I wasn’t quite prepared for how quickly the work would be done, and how quickly we would get results back. Once we connected with UHI, it opened a lot of doors. As we are a multi project company, Mark Taggart has connections at the university who can help not only with biochar but with food productions and the social enterprise side of things as well. Once we started to speak to an academic partner the potential was beyond anything we could have imagined.

Watch the Minister meet the Sustainable Thinking Scotland team:

Now we are at phase 3. The only reason we have the space and resources to look at phase 3 research and production is all thanks to the support we have had over the past year from universities and Interface.

William McPherson, Projects Director at Re-Tek said: “Re-Tek faced an enormous challenge to try and identify an academic partner to support the recovery of gold, silver and cobalt from printed circuit boards which were removed from recycled electronics. Without the support of Interface, it’s unlikely that we would have found our outstanding partner, University of the West of Scotland, to support Phase 2 of the project. Interface has coordinated support for several ventures, including a project with University of Strathclyde to support improvements in our Recycling Centre. In 2021, Re-Tek extended the life of 250,000 used technology items preventing the need for these items to be inefficiently or needlessly recycled or landfilled.

“In addition to the environmental impact our business has, Re-Tek are committed to ensuring the future employability of students graduating from universities or colleges through regularly providing placements for students to support their academic courses. Working closely with South Lanarkshire College Social Care and Additional Support Needs schools in the local area, Re-Tek deliver mentoring and training to young adults providing an insight into working life. We are also active in several employability schemes, such as Routes to Work and the Kickstart program providing work experience and enhancing job prospects for eighteen to twenty five year olds.

Interface is delighted to announce the appointment of its new Director, Amelia Whitelaw, who will take up the role in August.

Amelia Whitelaw is currently the Executive Director of the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development at London Business School (LBS).  The Wheeler Institute seeks to apply business expertise and research to social and economic challenges in developing countries.  Amelia brings to her leadership position success with leading academic institutions in developing, promoting and implementing multi-organisational and international collaborative programmes.

Amelia has been working with LBS since November 2011.  In her roles at LBS, as the former Executive Director of Global Outreach and Director Global Experiences, she leveraged the School’s work and networks to increase the profile of the School, to generate interest in degree programmes, and to create unique learning experiences.  In collaboration with faculty, senior alumni and business leaders, Amelia established the experiential learning programme that allowed students practical application in live settings, the contextualisation of business knowledge and experience, and increased exposure to developing countries and micro trends. Prior to joining LBS, she provided the vice chancellor and other senior executives of The Australian National University (ANU) with strategic, operational and policy support in developing its international programme.  Amelia was also representing the ANU on the east coast of the US and developed the management framework for the secretariat of the International Alliance of Research Universities.  This alliance has been highly productive in developing a portfolio of global summer programmes for students, strong research programmes and improving benchmarking across institutions.

Amelia graduated from The University of Edinburgh Business School with a MBA with distinction, and holds a Bachelor of Arts.

Professor Andrea Nolan, Chair of the Interface Strategic Board, said: “The Board and Team at Interface are looking forward to Amelia joining us in August.  Her breadth of knowledge and experience in the global arena will help Interface to realise their ambition, extend their reach and impact through continuing productive partnerships between academia and businesses, communities and social innovators, to achieve economic and societal impacts at a local, regional and global level.”

Amelia said: “I am very excited to lead this successful Scottish model that demonstrates how world-leading research can be purposeful and impactful.  I firmly believe that business has the potential to improve lives and livelihoods.  This is an incredible opportunity to engage and contribute to business and Scottish academic partnerships that have the potential not only to improve livelihoods but also to impact positively environmental sustainability, health improvement, growth of local communities and international development.”

Companies based outside Scotland are being encouraged to strengthen relationships with Scottish academia through a £100,000 inward investment fund.

Following on from a successful pilot programme at the end of 2021, a new round of funding is being offered through Interface and the Scottish Government aimed at attracting businesses to invest in Scotland by establishing a partnership for research and development with universities.

Up to five awards of £10,000 each will be awarded to successful applications in this round, with a further competitive call being launched later in the year.

Earlier this year, six companies and universities were awarded £10,000 each. These included Romanian wellness company Therme Group and University of Glasgow for research into health and wellbeing intelligence to help make a business case for an inclusive Centre of Wellbeing Excellence to be established in Scotland.

Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, Ivan McKee said:

“Scotland was the UK’s most attractive foreign direct investment (FDI) location outside London in 2021, Scotland has been the top performing region of the UK, outside of London, for 8 out of the last 10 years and for six years running.

“Our economic potential is huge. We want to establish Scotland as a world-class entrepreneurial nation, with a culture that encourages, promotes, and celebrates entrepreneurial activity in every sector of our economy. As set out in the National Strategy for Economic Transformation, we want to be dynamic and confident of our place in the world, where we can attract international investment in research and the industries of the future, the new phase of the Inward Investment Catalyst Fund will support our ambitions.”  

Howell Davies, Sector Engagement Manager at Interface, said: “After a successful launch of the pilot fund at the end of 2021, we are pleased once again to work with the Scottish Government on creating further opportunities for businesses and academia to collaborate. The pilot fund brought in an array of high potential, innovative companies from England, South Africa, the U.S. and Romania, recognising the world-leading expertise and facilities universities in Scotland have to offer, and we are excited to see who the fund will attract in this time.

“The Inward Investment Catalyst Fund responds to our ambition to attract inward investment that aligns with our value as a nation, our commitment to delivery, and the strengths of Scottish universities. It creates a solution for potential investors to access these strengths and use them to further their ambitions to expand and grow operations in Scotland, creating jobs for the Scottish economy.”

For more information about the Scottish Inward Investment Catalyst fund please visit our funding pages.

The deadline for applications is 29th June, 2022.

Ivan McKee, MSP, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, met with winners of the 7th Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards today (Friday, 6 May).

Mr McKee was introduced to the winners of four of the categories by Laura Goodfellow, Interface’s Interim Director, at an event at Glasgow Science Centre.

After the event, Mr McKee said: “It was great to meet with the winners of this year’s Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards and to hear from them in person about the positive impact their thought-provoking and innovative projects are having across Scotland. 

“I would like to again congratulate all of those who received an award. As set out in our recently published National Strategy for Economic Transformation, our vision is for innovation to be an integral part of our culture, our society and our economy. 

“I look forward to hearing about the further success of these inspiring projects in the near future.”

Laura Goodfellow added: “It has been fantastic to celebrate with some of the winners of the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards today. The Awards took place in March this year online because of the pandemic, however we really wanted to bring people together in person at a later date to mark their incredible achievements and share their stories with Mr McKee and each other, particularly with 2022 being Scotland’s Year of Stories.”

The winners were a combination of businesses, third sector organisations and universities which had collaborated, or individuals recognised for their achievements in knowledge exchange.

The Minister met Innovator of the Future winner, Juliette Farrell, Knowledge Transfer Partnership Associate from University of Strathclyde, who collaborated with Glasgow-based Elite Contract Furniture, to develop an e-commerce site for a new product.

He was also introduced to Professor Murray Pittock, University of Glasgow, who won Knowledge Exchange Champion for projects including his role in the Kelvin Hall development, the Scottish Heritage Partnership report on VR and the Heritage Sector, the Robert Burns and the Scottish Economy report and its new methodology for measuring economic impact and brand value, and his placemaking consultancy with Barclays Bank in the International Financial Services District.  

Dr Marco Gilardi, University of the West of Scotland, scooped the Knowledge Exchange Heroes award. Mr McKee heard about Dr Gilardi’s involvement with industry and how it benefits students, university staff and organisations such as Paisley-based start-up, The VR Hive and the Scottish Crannog Centre in Kenmore.

Winners of the Making a Social Difference award – University of Edinburgh, the Scottish Schools Education Research Centre and the Glasgow Science Centre, explained to Mr McKee the impacts of collaborating to improve the quality of science education for young, underserved children through interactive games, a new exhibition design framework and teacher training.

Interface, which organises the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards annually, is planning further regional events in the coming weeks to celebrate the other winners.

In March 2022 Interface reached a major milestone achieving 3,000 business-academic collaborations with Scottish Universities and Colleges.  Interface was established nearly 17 years ago with the objective of enabling companies and universities in Scotland to collaborate, to promote innovation and ultimately help deliver economic and societal benefits for Scotland.

Primarily funded by the Scottish Funding Council, as well as Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise, the impacts of these business-academic partnerships the team have facilitated have been far-reaching and have gained Interface recognition across Scotland and internationally.

The contribution to the Scottish economy from research and development projects between businesses and academics enabled by Interface has been £88.9m GVA (gross value added) supporting 1,595 jobs, with expectations to reach £222.3 million GVA and 3,193 jobs.

In total the Business Engagement team have translated over 6,100 business challenges for issue to Scotland’s academic institutions.  Interface is a small organisation with a wide reach – to have facilitated 3,000 collaborative projects with almost 2,000 unique businesses is a remarkable achievement.  In addition, Interface has administered almost 2,000 Innovation Vouchers on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council with almost 1,800 unique businesses benefiting from this funding.  Interface’s inclusive approach means that all rural and urban businesses and communities can access innovation support and ensures delivery right across Scottish Government priorities including health, environment, communities, education, young people, and international development.

Interface continues to play a crucial role in building Scotland’s economic resilience as part of the innovation ecosystem brokering projects that deliver short term impacts, for example responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as contributing to longer term targets such as net zero.

Interface’s committed team enable the creation of lasting and effective R&D relationships between businesses and universities, with 75% of businesses maintaining an ongoing relationship with university partners following Interface’s match-making service.

From five collaboration in 2005, our first year, to an annual peak of 382 last year, despite the pandemic-induced “lock-down”, we are on track to grow engagement further this year. 

Projects come from all regions of Scotland and from across all sectors. The last three years have seen significant increases in projects from the Highlands and Islands, Aberdeenshire and Ayrshire while the top 5 key industry sectors are:

When surveyed following collaborations, 97% of businesses said that their project would either not have happened or taken longer without support from Interface. For those businesses or social enterprises who have not used Interface it’s worth noting that 92% of our expertise searches identified capability and capacity within partner universities, research institutes and colleges for consideration by the companies – so solutions to many challenges are likely to be found within Scotland. And following work with a matched academic partner 83% of businesses recorded reduced operating costs, increased productivity, profits, export, turnover and new or safeguarded employment.

If you are a business needing help with new product development, process improvement, or want to try a different technology Interface could help match you with a leading Scottish University or College, so get in touch today.

The winners of the seventh Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards have been announced during an online celebration of game-changing innovation.

The awards, organised annually by Interface, mark the biggest celebration of businesses and academic knowledge exchange in Scotland, showcasing the achievements of collaborative partnerships and individuals alike.

Addressing the online celebration today, Thursday, 17 March, Ivan McKee, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, said: “I would like to congratulate the winners today for showing the ingenuity, industry and creativity that is essential in achieving success.

“Scotland has world-class universities, with businesses looking to draw on that knowledge to develop, test and research new products, processes and services. By bringing the two partners together, we can solve some of our biggest challenges, such as driving recovery from COVID-19, supporting the transition to net zero and delivering inclusive growth.”

Laura Goodfellow, Interim Director, Interface, added: “I am delighted that the appetite for businesses to partner with academics shows no signs of decreasing; if anything, the last two years have brought more ideas to the fore and driven an upturn in the number of companies and organisations Interface has supported.”

The winners are:

COVID-19 Collaborative Response

Abergower Digital Ltd, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt University and partners including the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service for developing the first Scottish-made 3D COVID-19 swab for PCR tests with high accuracy, nose-only application. The collaboration resulted in a swab with a unique helix design tip which captured more material, giving a more definitive test result and the establishment of production in the UK future-proofing supplies.

Innovation of the Year

Celestia UK, Edinburgh, and Heriot-Watt University for developing eScan, with unique electronic scanning multi-beam antenna to simultaneously communicate data from hundreds of low-orbit satellites to ground stations. By solving bandwidth issues for the satellite communications market, the product offers huge potential for application in many areas, for example 5G, remote rural broadband infrastructure and aircraft. 

Innovator of the Future – sponsored by SCI

Juliette Farrell, KTP Associate from University of Strathclyde, who collaborated with Elite Contract Furniture, Glasgow, to embed new tools and methodologies into the business including rebranding and developing an e-commerce site for a new product, allowing them to sell online for the first time in 68 years.

Knowledge Exchange Champion

Professor Murray PittockUniversity of Glasgow, has shaped national and local government policy on literary tourism, and improved the way heritage and tourism sectors develop visitor experiences. His work on the economic impact of the poet Robert Burns secured two Scottish Parliament debates and persuaded the Scottish Government to commission his research report on the subject.

Knowledge Exchange Heroes

Dr Marco GilardiUniversity of the West of Scotland, researches software and design tools for interactive graphics and extended realities for training and education with an interest in multimodal interaction, producing 13 publications and a patent application. His involvement in Paisley-based start-up, The VR Hive, has led to many beneficial opportunities for students, staff and the company. He led a highly successful project with The Scottish Crannog Centre, designing an innovative immersive gallery that exploits Augmented Reality technologies.

Making an Environmental Difference

NHS Highland and the University of the Highlands and Islands, with a cross-sector partnership including Caithness General Hospital, Scottish Water, SEPA and the James Hutton Institute, for significantly improving the quality of hospital wastewater discharged into the sewerage system and the environment. The collaboration won the internationally-recognised Alliance for Water Stewardship accreditation, a first for a hospital.

Making a Social Difference – sponsored by Community Enterprise in Scotland (CEIS)

Glasgow Science Centre, Scottish Schools Education Research Centre and University of Edinburgh for improving the quality of science education for young, underserved children through interactive games, a new exhibition design framework and teacher training.

Multiparty Collaboration

The Nano Safety Research Consortium with Heriot Watt University, academic and industrial partners in Scotland and Europe, including University of Edinburgh, Institute of Occupational Medicine, Yordas Ltd and BASF SE,  for addressing important gaps in knowledge about nanotechnology including safety testing, influencing the content of national regulations and promoting the responsible and sustainable development of nanotechnology to ensure that the benefits promised by this new technology can be realised safely.

Dr Siobhán Jordan, former Director of Interface, received an award for her Outstanding Contribution to knowledge exchange. She established the organisation in 2005 and headed Interface for 17 years.

Photograph shows Laura Goodfellow with the Outstanding Contribution award she presented to Dr Siobhán Jordan.

This year has been designated Year of Stories, and with that in mind, Interface has adopted the theme for this year’s Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards.

For among the many entries to this year’s awards, are stories of people championing the knowledge sharing which takes place between businesses and universities, sometimes without much fanfare.

And yet these projects are helping solve some of our biggest challenges – how to reduce environmental impact, COVID-19 recovery and growing Scotland’s economy inclusively.  

Twenty-four projects and people have reached the finals of the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 2022 – and each one tells an impressive story.

From developments in satellite communications and telecommunications, to a portable dishwasher that cleans not only dishes but sanitises everyday items such as mobile phones and facemasks using UV light, the finalists are pushing boundaries and making life-enhancing breakthroughs across a number of industries – health, energy, food and drink, tourism and construction. It goes to show that innovation is possible in every industry and business, and that there is an academic to help with fresh thinking and expertise.

And that expertise can take many forms, from individual academics and small teams, right up to an international team of 42 researchers.

It is inspiring to hear about 3D printing of swabs in PCR testing, or mental health support services for frontline healthcare workers, as well as antiviral drug development in the response to COVID-19, and the partnership behind an initiative to provide meals to school children ensuring that they are properly nourished at the start of the school day.

Also recognised in the finalists line-up are individuals, from a world-leading scientist in diabetes and cardiovascular disease who champions women scientists, and who is an international keynote speaker and winner of public engagement awards, to our innovators of the future who are changing the business models in traditional manufacturing or making key developments in high-tech telecommunications production.

There are too many to mention here, however a full list is on our website here. 

Even if you are not nervously waiting to find out which projects and people win one of the much-coveted awards, we have a great line-up of speakers at the awards ceremony this year, which is free and online.

We are over the moon to welcome Will Whitehorn, Chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University, who has great insights to both the academic world and business world. As President at Virgin Galactic and Richard Branson’s key spokesman for many years, will bring a few stories of his own business successes to the awards. From watching aircraft at Edinburgh Airport in his younger days, to advising the UK Government on space exploration, his career journey is certainly a stellar one.

We are delighted that Ivan McKee, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, will be delivering a message of support to the finalists and winners, underlining the importance of businesses and academics working together to achieve success.

Sharing their stories of joint ventures are some past winners, who we will be catching up with to find out how their collaborations are going and how winning an award as helped them, the business and the industry they work in.

At this stage, I’d like to acknowledge the contribution of our judging panels and for their considerable time input and remarks on the applications. We appreciate their efforts as these awards couldn’t happen without them.

I am delighted that the appetite from businesses partnering with academic partnerships shows no signs of decreasing; if anything, the last two years have brought more ideas to the fore and driven an upturn in the number of companies and organisations Interface has supported.