From Minecraft to Muography, our Awards finalists are driving remarkable change

14th February 2023
Written by: Amelia Whitelaw

One might struggle to draw the common link between an expert in virtual reality, an innovative health drink and a 10 year-old partnership between a gin producer and a university.  But these collaborations, along with 19 other people and projects, have been shortlisted for the 2023 Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards.

The showcase of impactful collaborations and individuals highlights the remarkable achievements which have the potential to create positive change in Scotland and beyond.

Sixteen judges from academia, business and key players in the innovation system, worked through applications across eight categories before hotly debating the finalists in some fiercely-contended battles.

The shortlist includes collaborations with strong environmental credentials from a proof of concept for a new Scottish net zero manufacturing industry to optimising the use of biochar and improving fashion sustainability.

In the Powerful Partnership category, the shortlist could not be more diverse, from distilling gin, to pioneering research in nuclear waste, to boosting visitor numbers to a north-east castle through immersive multi-media.

Given the challenges to the tourism industry in recent years, it is perhaps not surprising that tourism features strongly in the shortlist as organisations have benefitted from academic expertise to engage virtual reality, augmented reality and gaming techniques to widen audience reach.

Students and academics at the University of Glasgow, through the Games and Gaming Lab and the University’s Minecraft Society, worked with Robert Burns Ellisland Trust to faithfully recreate, in Minecraft, the 18th-century farm in Dumfriesshire where Burns and his family lived whilst he produced some of his best-known work.

While Minecraft may sound familiar, Muography most likely won’t be – it is a technique that uses natural radiation produced in the upper atmosphere to shed unique light on the contents of shielded nuclear waste containers.

The University of Glasgow and National Nuclear Laboratory are pioneering research in this field, which has applications in other industries such as construction because of its ability to assess the structural health of concrete buildings.

The food and drink industry is renowned for its ability to reinvent, and several collaborations focus on developing products and processes. The health benefits of a drink made by The Prebiotic Company were explored with Glasgow Caledonian University, whilst Baxters Food Group partnered with University of the West of Scotlandonembedding waste and process management knowledge and expertise, helping reduce their environmental footprint.

Meanwhile, a 10-year relationship between Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Brewing and Distilling and Edinburgh Gin (Ian Macleod Distillers Ltd) has launched new products and careers.

We are delighted to recognise early-stage career researchers in the Innovator of the Future category, and the three finalists have brought their knowledge and skills to the offshore oil industry, circular fashion and lift specialists.

The knowledge exchange champions have built a wealth of experience through interactions with industry, and the 2023 shortlist celebrates three worthy winners where virtual reality, immersive technology, artificial intelligence and climate change are the areas covered by three researchers at Scottish universities – Glasgow, Aberdeen and the West of Scotland.

The shortlist can be found at

The big reveal of winners will take place on 23 March, at an awards ceremony in the City of Discovery, Dundee.

Join the conversation on Twitter using #ScotKEAwards.