STRATHCLYDE University in Glasgow has topped a league table for the number of partnerships formed with businesses, pipping Edinburgh University to the top spot by just a single collaboration.
Figures due to be released tomorrow by Interface, the public body that matches companies to universities, show that 583 partnership deals have been signed since the organisation was launched in 2005.
Strathclyde chalked up 99 projects over the period, beating Edinburgh’s 98 and Heriot-Watt’s 93.
Siobhán Jordan, director at Interface, said her organisation had worked with all 24 Scottish higher education institutions (HEIs) and research institutes since 2005.
“It’s not just about what businesses get from collaborating with HEIs,” she said. “The impact on the universities includes enhanced teaching, employability for graduates and new ideas for strategic research.
“These figures show what has happened over the past nine years but, right now, we have more than 250 companies in discussion with Scottish universities about collaborative projects.
“In 2012-13 alone, we had 425 enquiries from businesses – almost a third of which have already led to a project.”
Since 2005, Interface has handled 2,384 enquiries from businesses, with more than 1,600 companies linking up with HEIs and 583 resulting in formal partnerships.
Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said: “These figures capture a sense of the real culture change that has taken place in our universities over the past ten years or so. Universities are focused on getting knowledge and expertise out into businesses and other organisations where it can have a real impact and they now have the structures in place to be able to work with business very effectively.
“Impressive though they are these figures represent just one element of university and business collaboration.”
Data published in June by analysts at Biggar Economics found Interface’s partnerships currently generate £17m a year for the Scottish economy and that the total will hit £80m a year in 2018.
Direct connections between firms and institutions – such as those organised by the BioQuarter for Edinburgh University and companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Galapagos and Galecto Biotech – will take the total even higher.
A Scottish Funding Council report in 2011 suggested the figure for broader collaborations was £23.1m a year.
As well as generating cash for the economy, partnerships will also support some 2,400 jobs by 2018, analysts said.
The figures are likely to be conservative as they were based on responses from 1,500 firms that have already worked with Interface, rather than including projections for the number of extra companies that will work with it over the coming five years.
Interface’s data come just days after a report from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts called for a shake-up of government support.
Nesta said ministers should focus on supporting existing firms, rather than trying to spin companies out of HEIs.