Forward thinking fund fuels R&D investment

Howell Davies, Interface
23rd September 2022

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.