Scotland’s screen and performance industries are to be boosted by a new multimillion R&D lab with sites based in Dundee and Edinburgh.

The Convergent Screen Technologies and Performance in Realtime (CoSTAR) programme funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) was launched at Beyond Conference, London. Included amongst five UK labs is the CoSTAR Realtime Lab, led by Abertay University in Dundee in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, Interface, Chroma Developments and the Scottish Government’s Techscaler programme.

The CoSTAR national network will provide researchers, companies and institutions across the UK with the infrastructure they need to conduct world-class research and development (R&D) in screen and performance technology. It will specialise in virtual production – a new cinematography technique which uses computer-generated imagery (CGI), augmented reality and motion capture to create virtual film and performance sets.

Supported with £75.6 million of funding from AHRC with additional private co-investment, it will drive the design, development and creation of state-of-the-art facilities, resources and expertise to underpin the long-term competitiveness of the sectors.

Abertay University is the only institution to have been selected by AHRC to work across two network sites and will also be a key partner on the CoSTAR National Lab led by Royal Holloway, University of London, in partnership with Pinewood Studios, BT, disguise and the University of Surrey.

The primary CoSTAR Realtime Lab will be constructed at Water’s Edge in Dundee (a site owned by Chroma Developments) with a second CoSTAR Realtime Lab site to be based at Edinburgh College of Art at the University of Edinburgh.  In addition to the core partners, CoSTAR Realtime is also supported by Scottish Enterprise, Screen Scotland and Amazon Web Services.

Professor Gregor White of Abertay University and CoSTAR Realtime Lab lead said: “The convergence of new technologies means that our screen media and performance sectors have become closer than ever before, providing a golden opportunity for companies to expand and diversify their offer. With a global reputation as a leader in technology and the birthplace of the video games industry, Scotland already has a strong backbone of large businesses and SMEs working in this space, ideally placed to take advantage of the growing demand. By working closely with our core partners and supporters, listening to the requirements of industry and linking into the future-focused work of the National Lab, CoSTAR Realtime will provide the R&D support needed to spark economic growth and innovation for this exciting new sector.”

Melissa Terras, Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage at the University of Edinburgh said: “Edinburgh’s arts and cultural communities are at the forefront of the creative industries. Our involvement in CoSTAR will ensure that a wide variety of creative practitioners have the opportunity and ability to engage with and access innovative virtual production facilities. In addition, the University of Edinburgh’s world-leading expertise in Artificial Intelligence will support the wider CoSTAR community. We’re delighted to be at the heart of this UK initiative, continuing to build a bridge between technology and the creative industries.”

Howell Davies, Head of Strategic Programmes and Funding at Interface said: “It is great to see the scoping, planning and strategic thinking coming to fruition as the Realtime Lab launches as part of the UKRI’s CoSTAR programme. The approach to build on previous creative cluster programmes and combine the strengths of the academic expertise, support organisations and investors are a strong foundation to help drive the next generation of visual effects technologies that will revolutionise the UK’s film, TV and performing arts industries.”

Stewart Clark, Managing Director of Chroma Developments said: “Bringing the CoSTAR Realtime Lab to Water’s Edge in Dundee further cements the city’s status as a world leader for the technology industry and there’s going to be enormous potential for companies across Scotland and further afield to take advantage of this leading-edge facility, supported by elite R&D expertise. Becoming part of the CoSTAR network represents another exciting step forward for Chroma Developments as we continue to grow our reach and we’re pleased to be laying these foundations to drive the next phase of the screen and performance industries.”

Lara Findlay, Head of Regional Engagement for Dundee & Tayside at Techscaler by CodeBase said: “The launch of the CoSTAR Realtime Lab presents an exciting opportunity for both Dundee and Scotland to explore advancements in screen and performance technology. The launch of this studio truly underscores the immense potential within our region, placing us on the path towards creative technology innovations that could significantly benefit Scotland’s tech sector, and CodeBase is excited to be a part of this collaboration through Techscaler.”

Watch the CoSTAR Realtime Lab launch video here:

Innovation Voucher funding, aimed at encouraging partnerships between a Scottish business and a university or college, receive a boost in value for the first time since they were launched in 2009.

Standard Innovation Vouchers and Student Placement Innovation Vouchers now offer a value of up to £7.5k, a rise from £5k.

Each Innovation Voucher supports businesses to develop novel and pioneering products, services and processes or develop the company’s internal workforce such as new or enhanced workplace processes, practices and expertise in collaboration with a university or college partner. The collaborations also impact academic research and teaching while enhancing business skills and industry experience to the academic teams and students involved.

Interface manages the Innovation Voucher Funding on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council. Since 2009 almost 1,900 Innovation Vouchers have been issued with a value of over £9.5m.

Alan Pratt, Head of Systems and Finance at Interface said: “This increase in funding is a significant step in enabling more academic time to be funded for collaborative research and development projects. We find that businesses who work with academics for the first time through Innovation Vouchers establish long lasting links and go on to work on other projects with the same or other university or college partners. It really is the start of an exciting journey for many.”

Helen Cross, Director of Research and Innovation at the Scottish Funding Council, said: “Increasing the value of our innovation vouchers is great news for universities, colleges and the businesses they partner with.

“These partnerships are a fantastic way of combining academic expertise with the know-how and ambition of entrepreneurs wanting to create new products, services and processes. There have been some incredible examples of success in the last 14 years and today’s announcement is a commitment to that continuing into the future.”

To find out more about Innovation Vouchers please visit the website.

The search is on for Scotland’s top business-academic partnerships and individuals making a significant impact on economic, environmental and social prosperity through collaborative research and development.

Now in its ninth year, the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards is the flagship event celebrating the partnerships between business, third sector and public sector organisations and academia (universities, colleges and research institutes).

Interface, which connects businesses and academia, organises the awards. Director, Amelia Whitelaw, said: “There is a tremendous amount of ground-breaking research happening in Scotland between our innovative businesses and academic communities. They are pushing boundaries and making breakthroughs which are bringing huge benefits.

“We are excited to be shining a light on the people and partnerships behind these exciting developments, who are often working in the background. We hope that these awards inspire new projects, innovation and creativity.”

The seven award categories now open for entries are:

– Innovation of the Year – sponsored by HGF Limited
– Innovator of the Future
– Knowledge Exchange Champion – sponsored by PraxisAuril
– Knowledge Exchange Heroes
– Making a Social Difference – sponsored by Community Enterprise in Scotland (CEIS)
– Making an Environmental Difference – sponsored by Zero Waste Scotland
– Multiparty Collaboration

The judging panels, drawn from across the innovation ecosystem, will be looking at how the applications demonstrate collaboration, innovation, impacts achieved, and their legacies, as well as the potential to transform economic, social and environmental challenges.

The deadline for applications is 5pm, Wednesday 6th December 2023. The awards will be hosted by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, on Thursday 14th March, 2024.

Click here for entry toolkit and application forms.

Research into the relationship between financial vulnerability and mental health, and the development of a portable system for monitoring hormonal fluctuations, are among the latest projects to have been backed by a national inward investment fund.

The announcement coincides with the opening of a new round of the Inward Investment Catalyst Fund to support inward investment into Scotland through establishing relationships between businesses and academia.  

Minister for Small Business, Innovation, Tourism and Trade, Richard Lochhead, said: “The latest round of the Inward Investment Catalyst Fund has once again attracted diverse and innovative projects, with the expertise and support of our highly regarded universities and academia playing a significant role in attracting potential investors to consider Scotland and apply for the funding.

“The successful projects not only align with the ambitions of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation but also with the Inward Investment Plan’s key opportunity areas. I am pleased that applications for a further round of funding has launched and encourage all interested businesses with innovative projects to apply for the funding.

“Our new Programme for Government re-iterates the Scottish Government’s commitment to attracting overseas businesses to invest in Scotland, which this year was once again named the number one area of the UK outside London for inward investment projects. Through the Inward Investment Catalyst Fund and a range of other investment opportunities and initiatives, we will continue to build on this position as we develop a greener, fairer, wellbeing economy.”

Howell Davies, Sector Engagement Manager at Interface, said: “This was another excellent round of applications with good potential for these companies to base and scale their operations here in Scotland using the excellent support and world class academic community to help accelerate that journey.”

The last round of the fund resulted in 5 projects being awarded up to £10,000 each. 

The five funded projects are:

Serene (England) and University of St Andrews, awarded £10,000 for a project using financial data to identify the financial vulnerabilities and associated psychological stress in young adults. The research aims to uncover financial patterns indicative of both existing vulnerabilities and early-warning signs.

CCTV video analytics company Graymatics (Singapore) and University of Strathclyde, awarded £9,990 to develop smart audio module software, to be integrated into the existing Graymatics’ video surveillance product. This will enable their system to accurately identify and track objects, even in challenging environments.

Reaforma Ltd (England) and University of Strathclyde, awarded £10,000 to develop the company’s carbon-negative geopolymer construction composite.

Salop Design & Engineering Ltd (England) and University of Strathclyde, awarded £9,993 to conduct a life cycle assessment of energy-efficient and environment-friendly technology for producing single-sheet titanium components used in the aerospace industry.

viO HealthTech (England and U.S.) and Heriot-Watt University, awarded £9,500 to develop a portable system for monitoring hormone levels to help with conception, pregnancy, menopause, and conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

Since 2021 the fund has supported 20 companies out with Scotland on projects in partnership with Scottish academic institutions, across a range of disciplines. Several of the collaborations have led to companies having a physical presence in Scotland, including Smartify, Evolve Hydrogen and Evolve Metals (formerly Neocycl). Work carried out and networks made have supported conversations with enterprise agencies, local authorities, and Green Free Ports for developing operations and investing here.

The deadline for the next round of the Inward Investment Catalyst Fund is 17th November, 2023. Information and applications form can be found here.

Farmers are being asked: “What’s the problem?” in a new campaign aimed at encouraging them to innovate to future-proof their businesses.

Finding solutions to long-term problems can be challenging for farmers because of lack of time and resource, but a national business support service can help address problems and plan for a sustainable future by offering a direct route into Scotland’s world-leading universities, research institutes and colleges.

Interface is a free service which matches businesses to academic teams and individuals to address challenges through research and development. The organisation has team members throughout Scotland who can help farming businesses achieve their ambitions, no matter the size or scope.

Mari Findlay, Interface’s Business Engagement Executive in Dumfries, Galloway and Ayrshire, said: “We can help save the farming community time, money and effort by matching them to the right expertise across Scotland’s renowned higher and further education institutes.

“From automation, data and digital, through to sensors and engineering, the knowledge base in our country’s universities is vast and can be applied in all kinds of ways and to all sorts of issues.”

Projects can support activities to reduce costs; improve efficiencies and resilience; adopt new technologies; combat weather impacts; manage waste; identify additional income streams; and diversify farming businesses.

Projects supported by Interface include:

Interface has been matching businesses to academics to undertake collaborative research and development for more than 18 years.

Since 2005, over 3,400 collaborative business-academic projects have been initiated by Interface with 83% of businesses recording impacts such as reduced operating costs, increased productivity, profits, exports, turnover and new or safeguarded employment.

To find out how Interface could support you and your farming business, please contact Mari Findlay at

Further information about how Interface can support you can be found here – Farming & Agriculture: What’s your problem?

The Scottish Government have approved £100,000 of funding to support inward investment into Scotland through establishing relationships between businesses and academia.

The Inward Investment Catalyst Fund has been developed by Interface and the Scottish Government to attract businesses from out with Scotland to collaborate with academic institutions on their research and development activity.  The intention is that the companies develop insights, relationships, and opportunities to invest in Scotland and ultimately create jobs.

Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade, Richard Lochhead, said: “Inward investment is a fundamentally important part of our economic plan for growth, aligning to the National Strategy for Economic Transformation.

“The Inward Investment Catalyst Fund is playing a part in linking up businesses with the expertise offered by Scotland’s world class universities and academia, and has already resulted in a variety of highly innovative projects.

“I am pleased that the Scottish Government will be continuing to support the Fund this year, and expect this new call for applications to kick-start more exciting partnerships to encourage potential investors to set-up their businesses in Scotland and support Scotland’s economic growth, with the potential for creating high-value jobs.”

Howell Davies, Sector and Business Engagement Manager at Interface, said: “The catalyst funding has proven an invaluable resource to initiate business-academic relationships which bring value to the Scottish economy. We have already seen projects develop into long-term relationships giving fresh opportunities to academics as well as companies registering and basing staff in Scotland.”

Since the fund was launched in 2021 there have been 15 collaborations between Scottish academics and businesses from seven countries including Romania, South Africa, the United States and Finland. They span an array of sectors including aerospace, energy, construction, health and wellbeing, and finance.

Case study 1: Evolve Hydrogen Ltd and University of Strathclyde

Through the fund, U.S. company Evolve Hydrogen Ltd. accessed electrochemical expertise at University of Strathclyde to develop green hydrogen production using seawater. Academic expertise has furthered the development of the technology and will support their Scottish ventures.

Case study 2: Ecomar Propulsion and the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland (NMIS), University of Strathclyde.

Ecomar Propulsion, who make electric outboard motors from their base in Fareham, England, collaborated with NMIS when a supply chain manufacturer ceased supplying products, leaving a major gap in the market. Through the collaboration, opportunities were identified to explore additional supply chain opportunities and manufacturing routes in Scotland for Ecomar Propulsion’s full product range.

For more information about the Scottish Inward Investment Catalyst fund please visit

The deadline for applications is 5pm Thursday 27 July 2023.

A new fund aimed at supporting food and drink companies make healthier products has awarded £75K of funding to eight collaborations between businesses and universities in Scotland.

The Healthier Products Innovation Fund for Scotland (HPIF) was developed by Interface and Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Scotland’s Reformulation for Health Programme to support food and drink businesses as part of the Scottish Food & Drink Recovery Plan.

Howell Davies, Sector and Business Engagement Manager, Interface, said: “It was great to see the number of applications submitted and the wide array of activity and health improvements through fortification and reformulation being proposed.  Scotland is blessed with its talent pool of academics applying their expertise to the food and drink sector and we look forward to hearing about the results of the collaborations later in the year.”

Joanne Burns, FDF Scotland’s Reformulation for Health Manager, said: “Since the launch of our Reformulation for Health Programme in 2019 we have had the pleasure of providing funding directly to food producers to help them make their products healthier. We are delighted for the first time to provide funding that will support innovative reformulation projects between food and drink producers and academics. I was enthused to see the range of applications and look forward to seeing the results.”    

Projects ranged from improving products high in fats, sugars and salts in bakery products and ready meals; to addressing public health challenges such as fortifying products with fibre and new formats to help people meet their 5-a-day requirements.

The funded projects are:

The whisky industry in Scotland is an intoxicating blend of traditional methods of distilling and innovation through all facets of production.

Packaging, transport, energy use and the natural ingredients which go into the distilling process are all subject to research and development as distilleries look to improve efficiencies, reduce their impact on the environment and create exciting new products and experiences to help future-proof the industry.

For one distillery in Edinburgh, finding a prime site in Leith Docks led to the unique build of a £12m 9-storey vertical distillery. Port of Leith Distillery, which opens this summer, has capacity to produce 1million bottles of whisky annually and is expected to welcome 25,000 visitors a year.

Getting to that point has, however, taken a phenomenal amount of dedication, passion and desire to create something unique both in terms of the distillery but also the whiskies being developed. Researching flavour and ingredients started several years ago with an introduction through Interface to the International Centre for Brewing & Distilling (ICBD) at Heriot-Watt University which led to a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP).

KTPs are unique 3-way collaborations which enable graduates to spend a significant length of time working in industry on specific projects bringing many benefits to the individuals, businesses and universities as knowledge exchanges between the partners.

Through the KTP, new yeast strains were identified that produced an exceptional “new make” spirit which will be taken forward in the production of single malt whisky. The KTP was a first step in developing a longer-term strategic partnership between the university and distillery which will provide on-going opportunities for student projects, employment and access to respective facilities.

The knowledge generated from the KTP has enabled Port of Leith Distillery to openly engage with other producers to share the fruits of their research with a goal of fostering more of a start-up community within the whisky industry that promotes best practice.

Meanwhile, family-owned Arbikie Distillery is aiming to be one of the world’s most sustainable distilleries. In fact, they have such strong environmental credentials that they have produced the world’s first carbon positive spirits.

The soon-to-be hydrogen-powered distillery at their Angus farm is a stone’s throw from the fields, where the raw ingredients are grown, meaning their produce has a negligible supply miles. Starting with vodka made from their own wonky potatoes in 2014, they now produce a range of award-winning whisky, gin and vodka, including pea-based spirits which have a carbon avoidance of more than 1.53kg per bottle.

They describe themselves as “craftsmen of the soil”, where the crop is king, so it was a natural progression to explore the potential of making whisky from old barley varieties. Conservation grains have been grown in the UK for millennia but have largely been replaced by higher-yield modern varieties. However, conservation barley is renowned for thriving in harsher conditions with increased resilience to drought and disease, so are better suited for the changing Scottish climate. They are also less resource intensive in the malting process, so are a win-win for growers.

Recent funding from Interface and the Scotland Food and Drink Partnership through the Food & Drink Net Zero Challenge Fund enabled the company to demonstrate the potential of making whisky from conservation barley varieties and produce a quality malt.

Collaborating with Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Brewing and Distilling, the project focussed on characterising the behaviour of conservation barleys on exposure to industry-typical malting regimes and sought to exploit some of the known resilience present in barley to reduce water/energy input into malt production. Within its scope, the project successfully identified conservation barley varieties that could be used to produce malt of favourable quality.

With substantial scope for further investigation, Arbikie Distillery and Heriot-Watt University are planning to continue their research in this area.

One of the more unusual uses of whisky which Interface has helped through its university connections is ZAZA & CRUZ, a natural skincare blend made using by-products of the whisky distillation process.

Working with the highly specialized and qualified team at Robert Gordon University has given the company an understanding of the extraction process for antioxidants, how to adopt a more scientific approach towards testing and incorporate ingredients into the products.

This World Whisky Day we will raise a dram to celebrate these exceptional projects and partnerships.

If you are interested in finding out how Interface can help your company through university collaboration, please contact the regional member of our team nearest you.

April 22 is Earth Day, a global event to demonstrate support for environmental protection.  As we reflect on the official theme for 2023, Invest in our Planet, we reflect upon Interface’s role in the call to action to innovate. Interface have long supported the energy entrepreneurs, carbon capture creators and green game-changers who have the ambition to make a real difference.

A recent example is Entergaia Technologies an energy technology startup based in Aberdeen with a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure environmental sustainability through the development of long-range wireless power technology to transmit electricity without using cables. The technology aims to reduce greenhouse emissions from transport and energy, accounting for over 50% of the components of overall greenhouse emissions.

Interface introduced Entergaia to the University of Aberdeen for the development of an initial proof of concept. This testing and simulation and the collaboration enabled Entergaia to further embark on product development work with Edinburgh Napier University, focussing on optimising both the transmitter and the rectenna.

The findings are helping inform the company’s future strategy in deploying associated products such as wireless electric vehicle charging, beaming electricity from space, wireless electricity deployment during emergencies, wireless electricity to charge robots, IOT devices and remote vehicles (ROVs).

Whilst Aberdeen is synonymous with the energy industry, there are numerous other companies around the country plugging into Scotland’s knowledge and expertise in its universities to tackle climate change in different ways.

A recent winner of the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards category, Making an Environmental Difference, was CloudEARTHi, a multi-university/business collaboration around the circular economy.

One key output of CloudEARTHi (and the focus of the award nomination) is a tool developed to enable start-ups to embed net zero and circular economy into their philosophy. The Earth Centred Business Design (ECBD) tool development was led by University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service, Edinburgh Innovations.

Two Interface-supported startups have benefited from ECBD framework, which enables startup founders to think differently about how they operate to build a more sustainable future and create better impacts for the world from the outset.

Crover and Danu Robotics are receiving support from Edinburgh Innovations to use the tool to incorporate resilience tactics, align business development to net zero and change business strategies to be more circular.

The Crover is a world-first robotic device which “swims” through grain, using on-board sensors to monitor its condition and provide information such as moisture content and temperature. It is helping transform agriculture by identifying spoilage in cereals such as wheat and barley in storage.

Meanwhile, Danu Robotics are applying the ECBD tool to integrate resilience into business planning. The start-up is working to develop a robotic sorting system to significantly increase rates of recycling worldwide.

Another winner in the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards (Innovation of the Year) and a circular economy champion, is Sustainable Thinking Scotland. The community interest company has developed a functional “biochar” from green waste which tackles algal blooms in water caused by nutrient pollution.

The company was referred to Interface through their engagement in Firstport’s LaunchMe accelerator, which is aimed at supporting Scotland’s highest potential social enterprises.  After Interface put out a call to the relevant universities in Scotland, STS CIC decided to work collaboratively with both the University of the Highlands & Islands (UHI) and the University of Strathclyde to test biochar production from wood waste and investigate its potential use in nutrient removal. 

This Earth Day, let’s work together to innovate and invest in protecting our valuable planet.

*This article also appeared in The Scotsman.