Family-owned Arbikie Distilling Ltd is aiming to be one of the world’s most sustainable distillers.
The Arbikie Highland Estate distillery is a genuine field-to-bottle operation – the ingredients for all their spirits are planted, sown, grown and harvested on the farm within a stone’s throw of the distillery. Records show distilling on this site dating back to 1794 – it is the field-to-bottle culture used by these ancient distillers that inspired Arbikie’s distilling ethos. Premium spirits can only come from the highest quality ingredients and drawing from decades of farming experience, they grow all the raw materials to make their award-winning range of whisky, vodka and gin.
The Arbikie Highland Estate has always been farmed with absolute respect for the land. The addition of a distillery has not changed their commitment to minimising any environmental impact.
The soon-to-be hydrogen-powered distillery at their Angus farm has always had a focus on sustainability. Production began in 2014 with the goal to add value to the potatoes which were deemed to be too ‘wonky’ for the farm’s bigger customers. Tattie Bogle Potato Vodka was born and from there they have gone on to release a range of award-winning gins, vodka and whisky including their climate positive Nàdar spirits made from peas.
The Scotch Whisky Association has set an ambitious target for the Scotch Whisky industry to reach carbon neutrality by 2040. In order for the industry to reach this goal it is vital that sustainability is improved across the supply chain, including both agricultural practices and malting.
To reach these sustainability goals Arbikie needed to look beyond the distilleries four walls and consider both upstream and downstream emission sources. A major contributor to the carbon footprint of barley-based alcoholic beverages such as Scotch Whisky is tied within agricultural practices (e.g., the use of nitrogen-based fertilisers) and in the processing of raw barley into malt. Conservation barley varieties have been introduced into the farm rotation as they are known to have the potential to reduce emissions, whilst utilising low input agricultural regimes. The challenge addressed here was to look further down the production chain and producing malt from these varieties in a more sustainable way.
Funding through The Scottish Food & Drink Net Zero Challenge Fund, from Scotland Food and Drink, administered by Interface allowed the collaboration between Arbikie Distilling Ltd and Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD), to take place.
The project focused on characterising the behaviour of conservation barleys upon exposure to industry-typical malting regimes and sought to exploit some of the known resilience present in such barley to reduce water and 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. Further, the results indicated that malt quality was similar between the typical and low input regime, highlighting potential for reduced input malt production.
Bringing together Arbikie’s knowledge of agriculture with Heriot-Watt’s malting expertise has resulted in the inherent qualities of older barley varieties being applied to the malting process to successfully develop lower input regimes.
- The project successfully identified conservation barley varieties that could be used to produce malt of favourable quality. In addition, the results indicated that malt quality was similar between the typical and low input regime, highlighting potential for reduced input malt production.
- Bringing together Arbikie’s knowledge of agriculture with Heriot-Watts malting expertise has resulted in the inherent qualities of older barley varieties being applied to the malting process to successfully develop lower input regimes.
- The project has allowed for continued development of expertise in conservation/heritage barley variety processing at HWU. This has led to a demonstrable benefit for teaching and research at Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD).
- From a research perspective the work has allowed for development of additional research projects in the area that are anticipated to lead to publication of peer-reviewed journal articles. With regards to teaching, the project has contributed to on-going efforts to grow research-led teaching and is benefitting development of student laboratory skills through multiple undergraduate and postgraduate student thesis projects that continue to explore the theme.
The Scottish Food and Drink Net Zero Challenge Fund
This project benefitted from The Scottish Food & Drink Net Zero Challenge Fund, a key initiative of the Scottish Government’s Industry Recovery Plan, first launched by Scotland Food & Drink Partnership and Interface in October 2021, with the aim of encouraging businesses to take action on their environmental impacts through collaborative projects with Scottish universities in order to accelerate their journey to net zero. The fund supported 17 projects across a range of sustainability themes and companies.
Evolve™ green energy technology is the first hydrogen electrolysis solution that can extract hydrogen from any natural water source including groundwater, tap water, and seawater, without desalination.
Evolve Hydrogen Ltd wants to develop novel Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) electrolyser technology to produce “green” hydrogen for use in industrial processes. This innovation unlike the traditional flat-stack designs of common PEM and alkaline electrolysers is designed in a honeycomb configuration with reactive parts placed in a concentric layout. The reactive parts are fabricated via injection moulding of a custom polymer which allow this technology to utilise impure water sources.
In developing their technology Evolve Hydrogen Ltd required a bespoke polymer material that enabled direct electrolysis of impure water sources, for example, seawater without the need for desalination. Optimisation of this material required a thorough understanding of its electrochemical performance and transport mechanism in various electrolysis environments. To improve the efficiencies of their prototypes this project required electrochemical engineering expertise to give a full characterisation of the polymer raw material and to recommend improvements in composition to advance Evolve™ technology.
Evolve Hydrogen Ltd sought the expertise of the University of Strathclyde to perform this project based on recommendations by their technical advisors, two of whom were alumni of Strathclyde University. Funding provided by Interface’s Inward Investment Catalyst Fund permitted the material characterization of the original polymer and suggestions for efficiency improvements to be carried out by the University of Strathclyde.
Evolve Hydrogen Ltd provided samples and previous technical data to the University’s research staff, who performed the physical and electrochemical characterisation required as part of Evolve’s aim to achieve TRL 4 (Technology Readiness Level) status. Dr Edward Brightman and his team of electrochemical engineers used their expertise to create a specialised test cell. They also demonstrated the knowledge and the flexibility to adjust the research scope to address new questions of the materials being analysed.
The work performed by the team of electrochemical engineers successfully characterised the original polymer material and suggested material and dimensional changes to improve the efficiencies of Evolve Hydrogen’s technology.
Evolve Hydrogen Ltd is committed to working with the University of Strathclyde because of their demonstrated level of professionalism, knowledge, creative thought, and the working relationship that has been established. The University, the Power Networks Demonstration Centre (PNDC), and their industrial partners plan to collaborate for the testing of future prototypes and the fabrication of Minimal Viable Products for Evolve Hydrogen’s demonstrations. They are seeking joint funding together to support an R&D pathway towards commercialisation in Scotland.
- The benefit of this project is to further the development of a novel green hydrogen production technology and to commercialise the technology in Scotland.
- Decarbonization of transportation and many industrial processes with the integration of Evolve’s technology throughout Scotland.
- Development of future strategic partnerships with key industry players in manufacturing, polymer production, and hydrogen end users such as offshore wind farms, utilities, and the transportation sector.
- With the global demand for electrolysers far exceeding the supply Evolve see a tremendous growth in exports of their technology for Scotland starting in 2024.
This project benefitted from the Scottish Inward Investment Catalyst Fund. The Scottish Inward Investment Catalyst Fund launched by Interface and the Scottish Government promotes Scotland as a leading destination for inward investment and supports businesses not yet located in Scotland but seeking to establish stronger ties with academia here. As well as funding research and development it provides an opportunity for the company to establish relationships and give insight into other aspects of the Scottish landscape, such as further investment opportunities, supply chains and the skills base to strengthen the case for investing in Scotland.
The Crover – the world’s first robotic device that ‘swims’ through grains to monitor their condition.
Crover Ltd https://www.crover.tech has developed the world’s first small robotic device, known as a ‘CROVER’, that monitors cereal grains stored in bulk inside grain bins or storage sheds. The CROVER device can “swim” within the grains and uses on-board sensors to measure local parameters, such as temperature and moisture, to build a full map of the conditions within the grains. Unlike current grain monitoring solutions that measure only one variable and have limited reach, the CROVER’s remote monitoring capabilities provide real-time data across a range of measurements allowing grain storekeepers to identify critical conditions, like hotspots early and maintain quality of the grains through proactive management.
Crover Ltd were a start-up when they initially approached Interface in 2019, they have since grown from two co-founders to 20 employees.
Since 2019 they have secured significant investment, raising over £600k in innovation prizes and grants (including Scottish Enterprise and Innovate UK). They then opened a seed funding round for investors and hit their £150k target.
The Challenges / Solutions
“When we initially met Interface, we didn’t have a specific R&D challenge as we were focused on developing our product inhouse. An obvious area for support would have been in the areas of design and engineering, however, through discussions with Louise, she assessed how our business worked and proposed that we undertake a project with the Scottish Financial Risk Academy (SFRA). The project with the SFRA helped us determine precise financial estimates of the value of Crover data to grain storekeepers and its impact on the grain storage economics. Understanding the financial impacts of Crover’s monitoring capabilities, had wider implications such as being able to quantify monetary value to grain insurers, and the potential to reduce insurance premiums for farmers and grain merchants.” Lorenzo Conti, Co-founder Crover Ltd
Following on from this initial project, one of the main technical challenges Crover Ltd faced related to the precise location tracking of the device within the grain bulk. Conventional signals, such as GPS and WiFi, did not work due to their inability to penetrate the solid grain bulk so a novel approach was required. Crover Ltd had undertaken some initial testing of different solutions, however they needed to tap into academic expertise in ultrasonic waves, positioning systems, electromagnetic signals, wireless sensor network (WSN) and Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM), to help improve the accuracy of the device location. Interface connected them to the University of Glasgow who undertook an initial feasibility into a means of measuring and identifying the location of the robotic device in bulk grain storage. This was initially funded by an Impact Accelerator Account fund of £10k, which then led onto a further project where University of Glasgow and Crover Ltd secured a further £27K to continue the project to a successful conclusion.
Since the initial collaboration Interface has assisted Crover Ltd embark on several other successful collaborations focusing more on the future enhancement and performance improvement of the robotic device, by tapping into design and engineering expertise from several Scottish Academic Institutions. These involved:
- Heriot-Watt University (HWU) design engineering students looking at designs for a remote charging station for the Crover to allow re-charging when out on location.
- HWU design engineering students helping to develop an easily deployable, suspended cable system that provides cable above the Crover to facilitate its movement within grain sheds.
- University of Strathclyde’s design engineering students designing a water-tight sealing system for the Crover.
- University of Strathclyde’s Department of Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management (DMEM), investigating suitability of design for manufacture.
The benefits resulting from the numerous collaborations which Interface have helped broker have undoubtedly helped Crover Ltd in both product development and business growth terms. Interface has helped open doors for Crover Ltd and helped Lorenzo and his team to establish strong links with academia resulting in some innovative and exciting developments.
Since its inception in 2019 Crover Ltd has grown from 2 employees to over 20 employees, has raised significant investment and secured over £600K in innovation prizes and funding.
Touchless Innovation, trading as Sanodaf, is a company that specialises in advanced disinfection and decontamination technology. Their aim is to create, design and manufacture innovative processes and products to help eradicate micro-organisms and infections that can cause health issues in everyday life for people and animals. They have experience of disinfection and decontamination as a service company and were looking at new devices to enhance current hygiene technology.
With expertise in environmental decontamination, Touchless Innovation developed a novel prototype of an easy-to-understand and cost-effective hand-hygiene device. It was based on the simple principle of using ultraviolet to kill micro-organisms that are commonly found on hands, specifically using UV-C which is proven technology for eradicating pathogens. The prototype was a hand sanitiser unit that prompted the user to place their hands inside an aperture that delivered a short transmission of UV-C directly onto hand surfaces. The unit was automated and, upon entry, a timed exposure to UV-C would be experienced by the skin. It was a touchless process and the unit would indicate when hands could be removed. The entire process was delivered quickly and without any noise or residue.
Specialist UV-C devices are used in laboratory settings but there was not an accessible device for everyday use. The creation of this device would allow people to efficiently sanitise hands without access to washing facilities and within a much-shortened time period.
The company did not have the required expertise to test the device and demonstrate the intended claim that it kills 99.9% of MRSA after a short exposure on the hands and that it was also safe for human exposure. The practical work to test the device required a respected Category 2 laboratory facility and testing by an independent body for credibility.
Interface connected Stuart White, Director of Touchless Innovation, with Edinburgh Napier University as it had the laboratories, expertise and bacterial strains required to carry out the microbiological aspects of the work. This collaborative project was funded by a Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher.
The results of the project allowed the company to identify any potential areas for design improvements and confidently market the device as a high volume, commercial product. Given the robustness and limited cost, it was considered that the portable version of this device would have an immediate market, both domestically and internationally.
The success of this product would improve the ability to sanitise hands in everyday situations to fight infections and ill health and would create jobs in Scotland where the device would be manufactured. The product had wide market appeal and the company’s intention was to expand globally into other markets where hygiene is poor and access to clean water restricted.
The company also planned to have a version of the device to be used in disaster situations where there was no power or clean water and a high risk of illness and infection spread.
It has been a privilege to work with the team at Napier; they have shown a high level of interest in the project from day one and demonstrated a very professional level of competency in undertaking the project, and in publishing the final result. This now leaves my company able to grow and expand with this product and I hope to be able to work with the team at Napier again. The result of this collaboration will make a very positive impact as we can now press ahead with the creation of working prototypes and move closer to releasing this product onto the market place. We are aiming to sell it in the UK and overseas and this will be a significant step for us as an SME (small or medium-sized enterprise). Stuart White, Director, Touchless Innovation
It was an excellent experience working with Touchless Innovation. The partner was extremely enthusiastic about their product but also realistic with the aims of this project. I look forward to working with them again. Dr Nick Wheelhouse, School of Applied Sciences, Edinburgh Napier University
Touchless Innovation Ltd was shortlisted for the Innovation of the Year award at The Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 2019.
Follow-On Activity – Advanced Innovation Voucher
Following on from their initial project with Edinburgh Napier University, Touchless Innovation were looking to collaborate with a university partner to verify that electrostatic spraying of hydrogen peroxide was a more efficient method of decontaminating hospital rooms than fogging, the current standard method used in the NHS. Interface was able to successfully connect them to the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) where the company had access to the University’s specialist category 11 containment facilities, including the facilities required to undertake testing of the fogging and electrostatic spray disinfection delivery systems. This project was funded by a Scottish Funding Council Advanced Innovation Voucher.
The results of the project confirmed the company’s expectations as well as highlighting some additional considerations for future treatments and applications. A full submission of the results was made to the NHS and Health Improvement Scotland.
Follow-On Activity – KTP
The current approach to disinfection/decontamination utilises two separate units: a fogging system and an electrostatic sprayer; the former being used to transform the disinfectant liquid into a dry fog for areas that can be effectively sealed off, and the latter which adds a negative electrostatic charge to the solution ensuring it surrounds and adheres to all surfaces it touches (for open-area use where traditional fogging would not be appropriate).
As the company had no engineering capability, they formed a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with UWS to develop a unique combined fogging and electrostatic spray disinfectant device for commercial use – two different technologies to run from one power source. This would underpin rapid business expansion and ensure the UK is at the forefront of market-led technology, addressing both societal and economic impacts of poor hygiene control within public and private buildings.
Business – Prior to the KTP, the business was dependent on external suppliers/market forces, limiting the control of their own direction. The KTP has enabled the business to become a manufacturer of their own device, allowing them to compete in a wider market and decide their own path.
They have benefitted greatly from being involved in the process of designing and creating a new concept for a device and then being able to carry this through to product build and test. The process has helped the business understand manufacturing and the issues around supply chain, in-house and external expertise and how these are linked in the creation of a new product.
Finally, the investment has enabled the business to acquire the global Sanondaf brand, operating across multiple territories and with ready-made customers for their new combined electrostatic/fogging unit.
Academic – The project, based on an Advanced Innovation Voucher, allowed a strengthening of the relationship with a fast-growing business as well as providing an opportunity for cross-school collaboration between the School of Health and Life Sciences and the School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences. In addition, the project provided an opportunity for:
- Demonstrating research impact for downstream REF reporting and publications
- Impact against UN Sustainable Development Growths in line with corporate strategy
- Further KTP portfolio growth for School and UWS in line with 2025 strategy
- Potential for further collaboration with the business.
Our experience of the KTP scheme, working with UWS, and the support on offer from Innovate UK has been exceptional and we are on the cusp of rapid business expansion as a result. I would thoroughly recommend the programme to any ambitious business that is looking to innovate and embed new knowledge within their organisation. Having seen the capabilities of the model, we are already framing a potential follow on KTP – Stuart White.
Touchless Innovation Ltd was shortlisted for the Innovation of the Year award at The Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 2022.
In his spare time, Mark Yeadon, founding Director of c-monsta, is an avid surfer. It was during his surfing trips that Mark became frustrated about the lack of way to allow his surf kit to dry, keep it all together and transport in a convenient manner. This led to the development of an early-stage prototype of a wetsuit dryer, a form of hanger, shaped so that boots and gloves could be hung in an inverted position, allowing them to dry; with a further row that could also hold a wetsuit.
It just so happened that the shape Mark had created looked very much like a sea-monster, and so c-monsta was born!
Throughout the development stage, Mark produced several working prototypes, so he knew the concept was viable and that it functioned effectively.
Mark was looking to work in collaboration with a university partner to develop the product further by enhancing the design, minimising the use of materials, and identifying the best possible materials that could be used in the manufacturing process. Design expertise was needed to make the product fully market ready.
After being referred by Business Gateway in Moray, Carol-Ann Adams from Interface successfully partnered Mark with Nick Bell from the Product Design Engineering Department at Glasgow School of Art (GSA).
The project focused on optimising the design by taking advantage of the product design skills, detailed materials knowledge, and extensive network of manufacturers that GSA has, to develop a design that would have great functionality and could be manufactured at a price point that would make the product commercially viable.
The collaboration was an immediate success, using GSA’s skills and the client’s network of surfers to develop a product that was viable for manufacture in Scotland. Glasgow School of Art has excellent facilities – including 3D Computer Aided Design software, 3D printing facilities and a full wood and metal workshop – all of which were utilised for this project.
This first stage project was funded by a Scottish Funding Council Standard Innovation Voucher.
The novel aspect of this product is the combination of features that allow the surfer or watersports enthusiast to air dry their wetsuit, boots and gloves effectively and without using electrical power. The geometry of the product allows the optimal positioning of the equipment – enabling water to drain out and to allow airflow to quickly dry the kit ready for the next session. By keeping the equipment dry, this design also extends its lifespan.
The added bonus is that the hanger keeps all the equipment organised and in one place – so the surfer should never forget a key item. There are no products on the market that have this combination of features and functionality.
The product has now been developed and sales have surpassed expectations, as more people have been taking up outdoor pursuits such as wild water swimming.
It is hoped that the manufacturing of the final product will be done in Scotland – building on links that both the client and GSA have with Scottish manufacturers and as part of GSA’s commitment to the reshoring of manufacturing jobs. The geometry and manufacturing processes employed will be selected so that recycled plastic material can be used where possible.
The company and academic then successfully applied for a Scottish Funding Council Student Placement Voucher to build on the solid foundation of the c-monsta product design. Callum Leitch, a student from GSA, worked with the company to refine the existing product architecture and materials to make it suitable for the needs of the snow sports market.
Benefits – Company
This follow-on project provided the company with a great opportunity to engage with the knowledge and expertise of the student and academic supervisor – reinforcing the links formed during the initial Innovation Voucher funded project. By utilising the student’s Project Design Engineering skillset, the company is hoping to penetrate new markets and increase sales.
Benefits – Academic
This provided an excellent opportunity for the student to see first-hand the real-world commercial value and application of the skills they had developed during their degree studies and allow them to produce invaluable content for their portfolio.
The project also provided the basis of an excellent case study for the Product Design Engineering (PDE) department at GSA, showing the current students the real-world application of the PDE skills and processes; taking an initial idea right through the development process, through sketches, prototypes, design reviews and ultimately to a manufactured product.
Students do not often get the opportunity to see projects make it to market, so these types of client projects are invaluable at highlighting the value of the skills they are learning. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to show the value of the teaching/research/enterprise linkages, reinforcing the links between the PDE academic staff and Scottish entrepreneurs.
“From the outset, Callum not only brought enthusiasm to the project, he also took a solid analytical, methodical and practical approach to the problem of drying and storing ski kit. Callum’s design skills were bolstered by great communication skills which made him a pleasure to work with.” Mark Yeadon, Director, c-monsta
Sustainable Thinking Scotland (STS) Community Interest Company is a social enterprise, based in Bo’ness, created to address a wide range of social and environmental issues. They operate a variety of projects that focus on topics such as food growing, community wellbeing and wood and green waste recycling.
STS currently produce biochar from wood waste. Biochar is a highly porous form of carbon obtained from baking wood within an oxygen-depleted environment and has the potential to draw and lock in nutrients and toxins from its environment. Until recently, the biochar STS produced was used in an agricultural setting, utilising its production as a means of carbon abatement and as a soil amendment within their food growing projects. STS wanted to research and create a biochar optimised for excess nutrient removal from water, helping to tackle harmful algae blooms and the nutrient pollution which causes them.
The water remediation techniques STS proposed involving biochar had not been adequately researched, regulated or utilised within the EU, UK and Scottish markets. STS wanted to engage with academic expertise to advance their production of biochar whilst also ensuring effective regulatory standards were put in place governing its manufacturing and subsequent use.
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 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.
A Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher was used to fund the project with UHI, whilst an initial consultancy project with the University of Strathclyde looked at in depth testing of Biochar including thermochemical changes.
The results from this research should help inform SEPA’s (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) decision making on how to license and regulate biochar’s use in water.
The new/enhanced product to be developed is a biochar which has qualities which allow it to draw in and bind to excess nutrients within water; adsorbing and removing them, resulting in improved water quality. This will provide a new solution to the growing problem of blue-green algae blooms in freshwater and also act to recover phosphorus and nitrogen from water. The biochar will act to stop nutrient pollution at source, preventing algal blooms and eutrophication, whilst creating a recoverable nutrient loaded carbon biochar that can be re-used on land. This would not only act to maintain/provide carbon within soil but would also provide a slow release (nitrogen/phosphorous rich) fertiliser. UHI’s ERI (Environmental Research Institute) already has significant current interests in this area, not least as partners in a €10M+ EU NW Europe Project (Phos4You) which demonstrates phosphate recovery and re-use innovations within Europe.
Benefits to company:
- The Innovation Voucher leveraged additional funding, including Scottish Enterprise’s Unlocking Ambition programme, and Firstport’s Catalyst Fund that will be used to support follow-on R&D work with the two universities.
- New research data will be collected in collaboration with ERI-NHC (Environmental Research Institute – North Highland College UHI) which will be of long-term benefit to STS.
- The results of the research will/can feed into several STS projects.
- The project assists expansion into new water remediation markets, which offers new income streams which can be used to fund STS social support programmes.
- This initial project will open the door to further collaboration and research.
- A studentship through IBioIC has enabled STS to work with a PhD student over 4 years from the Chemical and Process Engineering Department at Strathclyde University to investigate each step of biochar production to make it more efficient for larger scale use.
- Project results will provide evidence to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency regarding the efficacy of the product and techniques, which will assist with regulation and encourage further research funding.
- STS successfully secured £190K investment from Firstport and Social Enterprise Scotland’s Catalyst Fund to enable them to bring their technology to market.
Benefits to academic partners
- As much of ERI’s work in the Water Quality Innovation space focusses on low cost/sustainable solutions to water quality management and treatment, their aims with STS are very much aligned and they see significant scope to collaborate further.
- Biochar related research is of great interest to ERI and they are keen to work with STS to provide quantitative data to support the efficacy/advancement of their product. They are equally keen to see any work generated published in peer reviewed international research journals and will help STS achieve this.
- Results generated can feed into other existing projects, many of which also focus on nutrient removal/recycling and biochar production/functionalisation.
Benefits to Scottish Government
Despite the rise in recurring algal blooms in water bodies across the UK, biochar field-based water remediation remains absent from the £1.3 billion UK water treatment market. Biochar technology development will help create a range of safe, low cost, low impact environmental remediation services which are more financially accessible, encouraging landowners and custodians to invest in their greenspaces, offering a comprehensive/easily accessible solution to long term problems; leading to climate action and contributing to Scotland’s net zero targets.
STS have continued to make strides in developing their “Biochar” product and to understand the markets in which they can operate to position themselves as a sustainable social enterprise.
This initial project has opened the door to further collaboration and research and Interface have assisted STS to embark on other successful collaborations most notably with Adam Smith Business School at University of Glasgow where they have engaged with a range of student programmes from undergraduate to MBA. Projects include:
- a study into how STS could access the customers for the biochar/water quality services they are developing, typically Local Authorities and Large Estates owned by private individuals and companies and how best to engage with these diverse end customers and get past the trust barrier.
- identifying a route to market for the Biochar product; this included branding, operations, logistics and pricing.An MBA student team provided all of this and more. The final presentation and report provided STS with a clear route to market strategy, distinctive branding, pricing and costs as well as a functioning Shopify online store.
Other projects relating to environmental and sustainability issues are under discussion and Sean Kerr STS Director generously gives time to undergraduate and MSc programmes, student placements, and makes himself available for speaking and networking opportunities. The relationship continues to deepen and in 2022 Dr Nick Quinn, Lecturer in Entrepreneurship in the Business School, joined STS as a Non Executive Director.
Sustainable Thinking Scotland’s determination and hard work is paying off as they won Innovation of the Year Award at the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 2023.
Established in Inverness in 2004 by Carole MacKintosh, Highland Counselling Services Ltd, trading as Scottish Counselling Services, has grown from a small local service provider into a market leading organisation covering the Scottish mainland and islands with adults, children and young people as their client groups. Scottish Counselling Services provides a confidential counselling service to both the private and public sector for a wide range of life-affecting issues.
Looking to the future sustainability of the business, the lack of suitable software that could handle the varying requirements of the business had reached a critical point. Although Scottish Counselling Services had undertaken their own research, they had been unable to identify a software package that could meet the needs of their individual team members. Scottish Counselling Services (SCS) wanted to work in collaboration with an academic with Computing Science expertise to develop a system which would more accurately meet their needs.
Interface was able to successfully match SCS with Dr Bruce Scharlau of the University of Aberdeen’s School of Computing Science. Dr Scharlau had founded ‘The Software Factory’, an initiative created specifically for industry to realise their ambitions through work with the University to deliver software solutions.
Scottish Counselling Services worked with Dr Scharlau to develop a new system which would enable business growth whilst taking account of secure data storage of records, and efficient work-flow processes. No such system previously existed, so the project output was instrumental in enabling the business to move forward, refining its service offering, thereby securing future sustainability.
The project was funded by a Scottish Funding Council (SFC) Standard Innovation Voucher.
The new online system moved the staff from working with paper forms, a telephone, and managing staff and appointments via a spreadsheet to an online prototype, saving a day per week in admin work. This was all set up within the web application with encrypted records and minimal risks to privacy. The system has proven invaluable to the company.
We are now using our software and I am really enjoying having a focused system that we are all connected to. I am constantly delighted with the feedback from our team and how easy they all seem to be finding it. It has been such a good project for us all. Carole MacKintosh, Managing Director
After such a successful initial collaboration, Scottish Counselling Services and the University of Aberdeen continued their collaboration with work to further develop and advance the software in preparation for commercialisation; enabling it to be offered under a subscription service that could be offered to other counselling providers, introducing a new income stream for the organisation. This application will also enable SCS to improve efficiencies within the business, and thus spend more time on business development, generating additional income in a cost-efficient manner.
This work was part funded by an SFC Advanced Innovation Voucher.
This has been an amazing and challenging project but one that I am really proud to have been a part of. I feel excited about future developments and opportunities that I know will evolve because of what has been produced. Carole MacKintosh, Managing Director
Building on the previous collaborations, an internship was then created to consolidate the ‘lite offering’ of a Session On Demand platform designed to aid secondary and primary schools in Scotland in offering counselling to all of their pupils. This project used the same student from the University of Aberdeen who was involved in the initial collaboration and was funded by an SFC Student Placement Innovation Voucher.
My experience of the project has been extremely positive. The prospect of being part of a team developing a web application from the beginning felt daunting, however the team were supportive and patient throughout. I felt out of my comfort zone many times as I was working in an area that I had no previous experience in, however, we managed to work out what was needed by organically processing and checking out what worked, what didn’t work and what need amending. It came together from actively listening to each other but mostly from the expertise and guidance of the development team. This was an experience I enjoyed and feel that what we have achieved will have a positive impact on our service users and organisations.
The additional commercial benefits include being able to demonstrate our innovation and credibility as an organisation to potential clients. This I feel has opened many doors and also created many more opportunities. It has also helped expand my own thinking on how to create additional opportunities. Carole MacKintosh, Managing Director
Scottish Counselling Services also worked with both the University of Edinburgh Business School and the University of Strathclyde on various student-based projects to aid in the growth and development of their business.
Loch Electronics innovate, engineer, design and bring to market consumer electronics products focused on reducing global carbon footprint in households and offices.
Conventional dishwashers are incompatible with the most common household sizes in the UK; they are too big. Loch Electronics has been developing a concept dishwasher design, suitable for small households. In their design, the water spray system was modified to take less space and increase water flow directed at the dishes. As a result, the design is anticipated to offer increased process efficiency, reduced operational time and energy usage.
To prove their concept, the company was looking to collaborate with an academic partner with expertise in fluid dynamics.
Referred by Business Gateway, Interface was able to successfully match Loch Electronics to the academic team at Robert Gordon University (RGU). The team has considerable expertise in fluid dynamics and thermo-fluids, with years of experience working on a wide variety of collaborative research studies on the performance evaluation of complex flow handling systems; leading to optimal designs and enhanced operational efficiencies.
Funded by a Scottish Funding Council (SFC) Standard Innovation Voucher, the project involved detailed investigation into the performance characteristics of the dishwasher.
The primary outcome of this project was the hydrodynamic characterisation of the concept dishwasher design. This involved detailed investigation into the performance characteristics of the dishwasher. A systematic parametric investigation was carried out to achieve this. This scientific research will enable the company to develop and market these dishwashers with enhanced knowledge of its working; allowing prototypes to be built for real world testing and analysis, leading to further developments.
The innovative water spray system will result in a compact dishwasher design, ideally suited for small households. In this concept dishwasher design, the water spray system was modified to take less space and increase water flow directed at the dishes. This innovation results in enhanced process efficiency, reduced operational time and energy usage, higher power and cost savings, and lower carbon footprint of the device. It is therefore a very saleable product, easy to store and maintain, and with a low cost to manufacture and ship.
After successful completion of the initial collaborative project, both Loch Electronics and RGU wanted to collaborate further on the capsule dishwasher, specifically on the integration of UV lights, to enhance its capabilities through the inclusion of sanitisation and disinfection functions for protection against COVID-19.
Laboratory tests carried out by an American working group on COVID-19 show that the virus can remain infectious for up to 2-3 days on stainless steel and plastics. UVC (Ultraviolet type C) lights have long been used for sanitation and disinfection purposes and a recent study in the American Journal of Infection Control found that UVC light exposure completely inactivated the virus in 9 minutes.
A SFC Advanced Innovation Voucher was awarded to create prototypes and carry out testing to prove the theory in practice.
With precise control of the amount of exposure to the UVC lights, many different items made of different materials could be disinfected of any bacteria and viruses, limiting the spread of COVID-19. As dishwashers are used in 49% of the households across the UK, and 45% of households across Europe, the impact of this UVC integrated dishwasher would be substantial in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 and any future viruses as well. As the dishwasher will be compact, it will be ideal for use in small households, nursing homes, hospitals etc.
As well as disinfecting cooking utensils, eating utensils and medical tools, it could also disinfect through UV light, items that would get damaged with water, like face masks, phones, keys, wallets, letters, etc.
Creative Carbon Scotland (CCS) believes that arts and culture organisations have an essential role in achieving transformational change to a sustainable future. Their vision is of a Scotland where this role is recognised, developed, and utilised by both the cultural world and others interested in sustainability.
Creative Carbon Scotland provide training and support for arts organisations to reduce their carbon footprint and help nearly 120 key organisations in mandatory carbon reporting to Creative Scotland. Their culture/SHIFT programme builds connections and collaborations between arts and sustainability practitioners to apply their different skills, practices and working methods to address challenging and complex climate change-related issues.
It is widely recognised that artists across all artforms can offer new insights and alternative perspectives to bring about change in wider society. Creative Carbon Scotland are among several organisations who have worked on projects with embedded artists to address environmental sustainability and climate change. The artists have worked over extended periods, using cultural approaches to address these complex issues within organisations in the private, public and third sectors. Creative Carbon Scotland were keen to promote this type of collaboration, and the development of a library of case studies was a key step in the process of disseminating this approach. It aims to enable new users to discover a range of new ways of working with artists to address sustainability challenges.
The organisation recognised that for the case study library to deliver maximum impact, the evidence from a very wide and diverse range of ’embedded artist’ projects needed to be presented in a unique and engaging way. Consequently, they sought to collaborate with an academic team to co-design an innovative categorisation and tagging framework to enable rapid and effective searching within the Library.
Funded by a Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher, Creative Carbon Scotland collaborated with Gray’s School of Art at Robert Gordon University to prototype the Library of Creative Sustainability hosted on the CCS website: a new digital resource showcasing best practice examples of collaborations between sustainability partners and artists seeking to make the world a better place. The framework was co-designed with end users to ensure that it met the needs of managers and decision makers within the sustainability and regeneration sectors.
The Library of Creative Sustainability has allowed Creative Carbon Scotland to support advocacy and engagement with sustainability leaders in private, public and third sector organisations; presenting an opportunity for artists, designers, and other creative practitioners to share their skills, knowledge, and perspectives to not only address environmental sustainability, but also change the way we interact in society – thus re-imagining culture and embedding sustainability within it.
The prototyping of the Library web page benefitted Creative Carbon Scotland by further positioning it as a vital partner for leaders in the private, public and third sectors at the intersection of arts and culture with sustainability. The research work provided CCS with further examples on which to base new work and the resource itself will help introduce and persuade new partners to take up these opportunities.
The academic partner at RGU benefitted by having their research utilised, specifically through the creation of a suite of user-focused case studies. Both parties will benefit from the development of the framework for categorisation and tagging, generating new ways of engaging users.
Following the successful delivery of the partnership with RGU, CCS received further support from Dr. Siobhán Jordan, Director, Interface who matched the company with University of Strathclyde Department of Management Science. Iain Phillips, a student at the Department collaborated with CCS to review the key outcomes of several years of mandatory carbon reporting and reduction across artists, designers and other creative practitioners funded by Creative Scotland. CCS have a long-standing track record of undertaking research and are also collaborating with University of Stirling Management School.