A collaboration with Scottish Forestry exploring opportunities to create value from Scotland’s residual forestry bioresources.

It is widely recognised that significant opportunities exist to apply biotechnology to create value from co-products arising from the Scottish forestry industry. The National Plan for Industrial Biotechnology, the Biorefining Potential for Scotland, and the Forest and Timber Technologies Industry Leadership Group Roots for Further Growth strategy all identify forestry residues as critical resources and emphasise a need to focus on their valorisation.

However, to date progress across Scotland has been limited. This webinar explores activity overseas through contributions from RISE Processum in Sweden. UK start-up Sonichem will discuss the development of their ultrasonic biorefinery technology and share their scale-up ambitions. Following this the Centre for Wood Science and Technology at Edinburgh Napier University will share insights around high value compounds that can be derived from forestry residues. Finally, Scottish Forestry outline their plans to make the most of local bio-resources.


Who should attend:

For further information please contact Kim Cameron at IBioIC – kim.cameron@ibioic.com

The Bioeconomy Cluster Builder (BCB) is a collaboration between the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) and Innovate UK KTN.

With digital increasingly driving transformative new national and international opportunities for the creative and heritage sectors across the Highlands and Islands, Shared Perspectives offers a thought-provoking one day conference exploring what this could mean for your business, project, organisation or network.

Delivered by XpoNorth Digital, this free event will take a practical look at how digital technologies are unlocking ambitious new areas for regional businesses. It will also offer a platform for creative and heritage networks to meet with other sectors, make new connections and discuss collaborative approaches to shared challenges and opportunities.

Hear from a range of inspirational speakers and take part in workshop sessions on how digital storytelling can drive key parts of your business, regional impact and opportunities around the use of AI, crowdsourcing for the heritage sector and how creativity can power rural economies. There will also be an opportunity to meet 1-2-1 with XpoNorth Digital’s specialist advisors, HIE’s Creative Industries team and members of local development networks.

One-to-one sessions are now available to book on the day with our XpoNorth Digital Sector Specialists:

-Jessica Fox, Screen and Broadcast Specialist Advisor

-Nicola Henderson, Heritage Specialist Advisor

-Tim Wright, Digital Specialist Advisor

Email info@xponorth.co.uk to secure your space!

Produced as a hybrid event, attendees can connect with the programme in-person or online.

Join Innovate UK KTN at the University of Strathclyde Technology and Innovation Centre to explore all things microbiome across the One Health Microbiome spectrum including human, animal, plant, and environment.

Bringing these sectors together is an opportunity to learn from each other and make new connections.

The conference will explore common challenges and discuss how the community can work together to make the UK a key destination in Europe for microbiome research and innovation. 

There will also be an opportunity for early-stage microbiome entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to find new partners.

This event is for:


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:

Benefits to academic partners

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.

Next Steps

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:  

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. 


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.

Additional Activity

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.


Every year our planet uses more than 27 million tonnes of natural and synthetic rubber, making more than a billion tyres and more than 50,000 other rubber products that we use every day. Much rubber is simply burned after use and the rest scattered far and wide as a filler in other products. The scale of the waste is vast. However, as demand for rubber grows each year, we continue to plant more rubber trees and use more oil to make more rubber, wasting our planet’s valuable resources, causing deforestation and unnecessary damage around the world.

Edinburgh based Recircle, has created a breakthrough technology that allows rubber to be effectively recycled into high-quality applications. It’s a world first, which combines patented innovation, protection of our environment and economic viability. The Recircle technology relies on effective surface devulcanisation of rubber powders (the breaking of cross-linking sulphur bonds) derived from waste rubber.


Recircle were looking to develop rapid testing techniques suitable for high throughput screening in industrial application for the vulcanised and devulcanised rubber powders in order to assess the effectiveness of the devulcanisation process. The company was seeking universities with appropriate facilities to do this, with the aim of conducting long-term research on the optimisation of a biotechnological devulcanization process.

This would be essential for improving the company’s quality control procedures, as well as for application testing with new waste feedstocks provided by customers.  The new standards would help the company provide higher levels of quality assurance to all customers, regardless of the materials being processed for them, and further cement its reputation as the provider of the highest quality materials in the market.


Louise Arnold from Interface successfully partnered Professor Nick Christofi, Chief Scientific Officer at Recircle, with Professor David Bucknall, Chair in Materials Chemistry at Heriot-Watt University. Together, they successfully applied to Innovate UK for KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) funding and were subsequently awarded £125k to fund a two-year project utilising the services of a post-graduate associate to develop rapid testing methods for the assessment of surface chemistry on polymer surfaces. 


By providing the company with an innovative quality control process, the KTP will underpin the professionalisation and worldwide expansion of its current process capabilities; opening up a large opportunity for growth for the business in terms of materials they can process and global expansion of the customer base.


This collaboration has directly resulted in an increase in turnover as well as additional employment within the company.

Follow-on Activity

An additional project to come out of the partnership was a consultancy with Zero Waste Scotland under a Circular Economy programme that aims to stimulate innovation amongst Scottish businesses to help them adopt more circular business practices, which treat all resources as assets – keeping them in use for as long as possible to extract the maximum value from them. Making available European Regional Development Funds, Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) is aiming to stimulate new business activity to identify, develop and bring to market new circular economy products and services.  Through Professor Bucknall, Recircle received consultancy funding to examine the recycling of waste water from the Recircle devulcanization process and to generate new products from its waste streams.

If you would like to find out more about partnering with a university or college, please contact us.


Founded by electrical engineer student Dale Colley, Altitude Thinking Ltd is on a mission to tackle marine pollution by using innovative technology in rivers and canals, capable of monitoring water quality and collection of marine waste.

Scotland’s rivers, canals and waterways represent an irreplaceable, high-value resource to the Scottish economy and make a major contribution to the tourism industry and biodiversity.

An electrical engineering graduate from City of Glasgow College, Colley was keen to tap into academic expertise to seek help in applying technology to tackle water pollution. He was looking for an innovative solution to develop, construct and test a prototype of a programmable drone that will be able to be deployed and subsequently safely navigate Scottish waterways and produce accurate, real-time reports on water pollution levels and in the future to remove litter and other pollutants from waterways using suction pumps.

Although Colley had no previous experience of drones or the marine sector, as an engineer he knew he could invent a device that could monitor water quality and tackle marine pollution.

The City of Glasgow College is one of Scotland’s largest Further and Higher Education colleges and the UK’s number one college for WorldSkills UK, which is a partnership between business, education and governments to accelerate the development of young people’s skills from national to world-class standards.

The College is renowned for its work in the areas of Nautical Studies, Engineering and Maritime studies and has a mix of skills, workshop facilities and expertise required for this project such as electronics, electrical systems, marine engineering, navigation and propulsion – under one roof at the college’s Riverside Campus.

City of Glasgow College’s STEM and Innovation Lead, Douglas Morrison had the necessary academic expertise and was keen to work in partnership with Altitude Thinking Ltd to develop, construct and test a prototype of a programmable drone. The suggested prototype will be a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) equipped with motors making it capable of being deployed to a Scottish waterway alongside a range of sensors and data gathering and transmission facilities, allowing it to report back on pollutants detected.

Most people think of drones as craft that fly in the air but his is designed to travel on the surface of rivers and canals to monitor water quality. Altitude Thinking hopes to develop it even further to have the capability to collect litter, cleaning up Scotland’s waterways and freeing them of blockages – rather like the little robot vacuums that can be programmed to clean floors.

This collaboration project was successfully awarded a £5000 Scottish Funding Council (SFC) Innovation Voucher, administered by Interface to allow partners to look at engineering development for subsequent drones with enhanced capabilities to remove litter and other pollutants from waterways using suction pumps.

This innovative project combines portability with pollution detection, as well as data gathering and transmission, allowing for larger models to be built up over a longer period.

Business benefits

An award of an Innovation Voucher has taken Coley from the design stage to making a physical prototype which, with the help from Scottish Canals, is currently going through field trials monitoring water quality in canals.

Academic benefits

Douglas added:

“Dale’s novel application and the way he has integrated them is what adds value and presents an opportunity to change how environmental conditions are monitored in Scotland. His long-term ambition is to support the clean-up of canals and rivers and with supported funding to commercialise it he anticipates seeing it on the market within the next year.”

“It’s a wonderful product and looks incredible. It’s really cool – like a water-bound batmobile – and I believe it will help us to have a better understanding of what is happening within our rivers and canals. What is particularly interesting about it is that it is very much based on a range of readily available sensor technologies.”

Additional impacts

This collaborative project has already delivered a series of successful outcomes associated with the mark 1 drone, its testing and ongoing reviews, modifications and future markets.

Altitude Thinking’s invention has been recognised locally and nationally for its innovative work when being shortlisted for the Global Game-changers for Young Entrepreneurs and made the final shortlist for the Shell Livewire.

Dale has also presented his recent work to her Royal Highness – Princess Anne on her visit to the City of Glasgow College.

Follow on activity

December 2020 – City of Glasgow College, in collaboration with Altitude Thinking Ltd, has been awarded £23,500 to support the ongoing development of a mobile device that will read and analyse water quality. The project aims to deliver a new prototype – Aquabot 2.0. This drone can be remotely operated on the surface of rivers, canals or lochs to monitor water quality. The grant was awarded by the Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems (CENSIS) who are also contributing their expertise on engineering wirelessly operating IoT devices. 

Please note that Interface administers the Innovation Voucher Scheme on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council. All funding applications are reviewed on a case by case basis by the Scottish Funding Council, guidelines can be found here.


Renewable Parts Ltd. (RPL) is one of the leading suppliers of parts for wind turbines in the UK. They are an independent supply chain specialist, providing worldwide delivery of quality parts and consumables direct to site from an extensive collection of centrally held stock.


The UK & Ireland market for wind turbines is substantial and growing strongly, with the lifecycle of a wind turbine typically estimated to be 25 years.

Critically, as turbines age, parts consumption rises and customers begin to seek alternatives to long-term service agreements due to shortening planning horizons. This is the point that the need for repair development becomes particularly vital.

Renewable Parts Ltd were looking to develop an innovation programme for the repair of wind turbine parts requiring significant technical expertise from a Scottish university in the areas of market research, technical assessment, design and test before production-ready solutions could be delivered.  Following on from this, they were also interested in setting up a Centre of Excellence hub in the field of wind turbine parts repair. 

The company also wanted the academic partner to identify and work jointly with industry partners to develop these remanufactured component parts on a commercial basis.  


The company was referred to Interface by Highlands & Islands Enterprise. Interface successfully matched the company with the University of Strathclyde who has expertise across the business and technology areas that the Renewable Parts Ltd project required.

In this collaborative project, the University was looking to apply a multi-disciplinary approach to identify the tasks and areas to be researched.  They believed that the combination of the department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, the Strathclyde Institute for Operations Management (SIOM) and the Scottish Institute for Remanufacture (SIR), hosted at the University of Strathclyde, provided the multi-disciplinary approach needed for the new business models/process that Renewable Parts wanted to investigate, as well as the technology expertise required for remanufacturing of wind turbines.

The project investigated data on wind turbine component failure rates to identify which components could be remanufactured/repaired/reconditioned, and the Strathclyde team completed a report for the company which outlined a number of potential components that might be of interest.


Renewable Parts Ltd was successful in not only establishing a partnership with Strathclyde University but in securing funding from the Energy Technology Partnership. The total cost of their initial project was £23,075, with ETP contributing £13,575 in cash, and RPL contributing £9,500 in-kind.

The funding allowed RPL to develop implementation processes for two of these components, enabling the remanufacture/repair/recondition of said parts in-house. This meant that RPL could create a new manufacturing base in their original site of Lochgilphead in Argyll, an economically fragile region of the Highlands and Islands, creating jobs and supply chain opportunities.

In December 2018, the company secured a £171k grant from Zero Waste Scotland.  Renewable Parts, which has an operations centre in Renfrew, will use the money for refurbishment projects developed out of Lochgilphead in conjunction with its research partner, the University of Strathclyde.

Chief executive James Barry said: “The opportunity to improve recycling rates within the wind industry is significant.”  “The award provided a huge vote of confidence in Renewable Parts and the innovation programme it is driving with the university, in what is seen as a growth industry for Scotland.”

Follow-on Activity

RPL are now in phase two of project implementation, pursuing funding opportunities through Government bodies and Industry, and working with University of Strathclyde as their innovation partner.

The company was a finalist for the 2018 VIBES (Scottish Environment Business Awards) in the Circular Economy category, in recognition of their commitment to tackling environmental challenges. They also reached the finals of the Glasgow Business Awards, the Scottish Resources Awards and the Inspiring City Awards.

Impacts of COVID-19 on the business

Certain commitments were pushed back for the initial few weeks of lockdown, however, with a business-as-usual approach, Renewable Parts Ltd continued to grow throughout this time and employed new members of the team in sales, HR, marketing and procurement.

This is (June 2020) a critical time for the business as the first generation of wind turbines are approaching the end of their operational lives – at around 20/25 years old – providing a significant opportunity to capture new business. The company is in the application phase for a second grant with Zero Waste Scotland to continue working with the University of Strathclyde as a partner for developing new capabilities to help its customers reach sustainable business models.


Ecometrica is an end-to-end environmental software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider that is recognised as one of the world’s top sustainability brands. Incorporated in 2008, the company has unrivalled experience in helping businesses and governments identify risks and opportunities by combining satellite earth observation data with local information and business intelligence on the award-winning Ecometrica Platform. Ecometrica now has over 250 corporate clients, including ARM, Pearson, Compass Group, Etsy and Hertz.

Ecometrica brings together recognised experts in environmental and sustainability accounting, and their software supports all aspects of sustainability planning, operations and reporting. Their data and services are available from all their worldwide locations. Founded in Edinburgh in 2008, they also have offices in Montreal (2009), London (2012), Boston (2014) and Mexico (2017).

In 2013, a project team, led by the University of Edinburgh and comprising of local SME partners, LTS International and Ecometrica, successfully applied to the DFID (Department for International Development) Hectares Indicator Project – International Climate Fund (ICF) forestry programme.  DFID awarded £32,000 to the team to review and suggest improvements to their methodology for quantifying hectares of avoided forest loss and forest restored as a result of international development finance.

SFC Innovation Voucher Follow On Funding

In 2014, a Scottish Funding Council (SFC) Follow On Innovation Voucher of £11,600 was awarded to Ecometrica and Dr Edward Mitchard from the University of Edinburgh (UoE) for a project titled Earth Observation support for assessing the performance of the UK government’s ICF forest projects.

This follow on funding allowed Dr Mitchard to undertake additional analysis over Brazil to test the suitability of different earth observation (EO) satellite products for monitoring forest change. The project results gave Ecometrica a better understanding of the accuracy of the EO products, and enabled them to improve their testing and performance assessment offerings to institutions such as DFID, DECC, DEFRA, World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank.

“The Innovation Voucher is a fantastic scheme that made it really easy for me to work with a local SME and conduct research with real and immediate impact. My relationship with Ecometrica has grown since the Follow On Innovation Voucher was awarded, with it contributing to the development of ideas towards our current much larger collaborative projects. I would strongly encourage other academics to engage with Interface, who administer this SFC  programme”, said Dr Edward Mitchard, University of Edinburgh.

Benefits of the Collaborative Project

Edinburgh University and Ecometrica will continue to establish a leading position in Europe for this type of work. The benefits to the University of Edinburgh will be felt in terms of its international research and innovation ranking, and its reputation in the fields of forest ecology and the application of space technology. Ecometrica expects to continue its growth in this area: