What does a South African drinks company and a Romanian leisure company have in common? Both have plans to invest and develop sites in Scotland. Interface brings together opportunities between organisations, wherever they are based, with the world-class academic institutions here in Scotland. When it comes to supporting inward investment, our job is made easier as Scotland is blessed by a supportive business environment, a talented workforce, world-class universities, natural resources and the ability to collaborate with one another which makes international companies want to locate here.
Following the latest round of the Inward Investment Catalyst Fund (IICF), which we set up in partnership with the team at Scottish Government, what is apparent is the opportunity these companies see in engaging with Scottish academics to develop their products and offerings. There are also wider benefits to collaborating in Scotland, whether it’s for the burgeoning travel technology sector here; to embed testing in remote areas; or for the built facilities such as the Michelin Scotland Innovation Park and the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland.
The Scottish Government recently produced a values-led inward investment policy focusing on net zero, fair work, inclusive prosperity and the creation of a wellbeing economy. We are seeing the effect of this in the types of business coming to our doorstep who are wanting to make a difference in Scotland, to help create a healthier, fairer and more prosperous place to live.
For example, Therme successfully applied to the IICF working with the University of Glasgow on a feasibility study to develop a research and development Centre of Excellence, alongside their proposed £100m Wellness Centre. An unforeseen benefit for the University has been the multi-disciplinary interactions, which have expanded their engagement with a global organisation from a medical focus to also explore engineering and social science opportunities.
Another company realising the value of expertise in Scotland is Silicon Valley-based education and care tech company, 2m Foundation. Their mission is to bring people and technology together to create change for individuals with autism. They have accessed the Laboratory for Innovation in Autism at the University of Strathclyde. The facility is uniquely placed to evaluate this technology being developed and, if successful, to elevate its commercial potential. The business-academic partnership is seen as a step towards developing a base for the company in Scotland.
Nutri-Go, a South African-based company, identifies Scotland as a key strategic location for them to develop, manufacture and distribute their healthy drink products. They have tapped into the technical support and expertise at Abertay University Food Technology Centre of Excellence, developing the product for the Northern Hemisphere taste palate. They have now registered a company in Scotland BiaGo, which is derived from Gaelic for food (Bia/Biadh), which can be thought of as “food on the go”. It doesn’t get more Scottish than this!
The unique ‘Team Scotland’ partnership approach which sees the public sector, including Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise, working together with academia and industry to promote the very best Scotland has to offer does mean we punch well above our weight when it comes to Inward Investment.
From an Interface perspective and the academic institutions we support, the catalyst funding leads to longer term strategic partnerships. We see examples of projects from this year leading on to funded PhD Studentships and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships which deepen the business-academic relationship, allowing ongoing exchanges of skills and knowledge which greatly benefit the wider workforce in the company as well as individual academics. From a personal perspective there is still plenty of work to be done but I look forward to the day I get to relax in Therme’s wellbeing centre in Glasgow, sipping on a BiaGo health drink!