Health and environment dominate Knowledge Exchange Awards 2024

14th March 2024

Innovative people and partnerships in the world of business-academic collaborations were celebrated at the 9th Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards in Glasgow today (Thursday, March 14, 2024).

The awards, held at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, recognised winners across seven categories for their achievements in research and development between organisations, colleges and universities.

Innovation Minister Richard Lochhead said: “These awards highlight valuable collaborations in Scotland which are developing cutting-edge innovations to make a real difference to people’s lives.

“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting information exchange between businesses and academia. An example is our Inward Investment Catalyst Fund, which since its launch in 2021, has supported 25 businesses outside of Scotland to collaborate on projects with Scottish academic institutions, with an ambition of attracting inward investment.”

Amelia Whitelaw, Director of Interface, which organises the Awards, added: “The nomination process has surfaced some great examples of business-academic partnerships that demonstrate immense creativity, novel approaches and ingenuity taking place in all sectors of industry and in communities throughout Scotland.  Particularly strong this year are health and environmental developments, which push boundaries and will benefit many individuals and communities.”

The winners are:

Innovation of the Year – sponsored by HGF Ltd

Prozymi Biolabs Ltd, and The University of Edinburgh for developing a pipeline for identification and characterisation of novel gluten-degrading enzymes. These enzymes can be used for production of tasty and affordable wheat-based gluten-free bread, providing a realistic alternative for people with gluten intolerance.

Innovator of the Future

Dr Maria Martinez Castillero, KTP Associate working with The University of Edinburgh and Beta Bugs Ltd, for improving Black Soldier Fly genetic performance, as a high-quality protein source for livestock, through developing, testing and implementing the key data infrastructure and workflow for the Beat Bugs breeding programme, ensuring that genetic progress can be measured and tracked.

Knowledge Exchange Champion – sponsored by PraxisAuril

Professor Sir Michael Ferguson for his continuous commitment to highly impactful Knowledge Exchange from Scotland’s life sciences research base spanning over 18 years. His achievements include forming the University of Dundee’s unique translational Drug Discovery Unit, supporting at least eight successful spin-out companies and championing the creation of a Life Sciences Innovation District in Dundee.

Knowledge Exchange Heroes (individual)

Michelle Skotzen, Edinburgh College, for being an Innovation Champion for the college sector, collaborating cross college and the sector to provide solutions for businesses and promoting the support colleges can offer to adopt and diffuse innovation. Working within the college’s Business Development team, Michelle has co-ordinated the development of a comprehensive innovation portfolio in the space of just 18 months.

Knowledge Exchange Heroes (team)

The Wellcome iTPA Team operates an embedded human health and wellbeing innovation accelerator programme at The University of Edinburgh. Innovative, agile and operating at scale, the team has supported over 1,000 early career researchers and established the first, largest and most engaged community of over 1,300 researchers. The team has supported over 180 projects with £1.8M in direct funding and returned £12.2M in further funding, a 600% return on investment.

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

A joint venture between University of the West of Scotland and Kibble Education & Care Centre focusing on the development of a self-harm and suicide detection and health monitoring system for young people who have high-risk emotional and behavioural challenges who would otherwise require constant supervision from highly trained staff.

Highly Commended

West College Scotland and The Bettii Pod Ltd for collaborating on the design and development of a menstrual cup washer and sanitiser which can be installed in away-from-home cubicles.

The product’s purpose is to support sustainable menstrual practices, offer an eco-friendly menstrual choice, address period poverty by improving access to sanitation facilities, and mitigate health concerns related to inadequate washing facilities.

Making an Environmental Difference – sponsored by Zero Waste Scotland

The Flow Country Partnership, working with University of the Highlands & Islands Environmental Research Institute, have the collective aims of re-evaluating the blanket bog peatlands of the Flow Country and ensuring, through individual and collective action, that outcomes related to climate change mitigation, natural capital, sustainability and biodiversity conservation are optimised. It also seeks to ensure that the social and economic benefits arising from appropriate and effective management of this globally significant natural are optimised.

Multiparty Collaboration

Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE), a collaboration between University of the Highlands and Islands and multiple partners in the public and private sector, has created, through the rigorous and technology-agnostic evaluation of low-carbon technologies, a blueprint for the commercialisation of green regional aircraft operations, providing increased resilience for communities and businesses in remote and rural locations.