Links between academia and business need strengthened

Scotland enjoys a rich tradition of producing some of the world's most forward-thinking minds. Picture: PA

Scotland enjoys a rich tradition of producing some of the world's most forward-thinking minds. Picture: PA

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The next generation of Scottish business leaders could be driven by world-class academic expertise, but only if work starts now to bring these two areas together.

Scotland enjoys a rich tradition of producing some of the world’s most forward-thinking minds. Not only is that true in science and technology, but it’s also true in business.

After all, our greatest scientific minds were often also famous for their commercial skills.

Science and business should be seen as complementary – mutually reinforcing, working symbiotically together to the benefit of both. To maintain and even improve on our existing high standards in these areas, we need to create a competitive offering. One of the best ways this can be done is through closer collaboration between business and academia.

Over the last few years, it’s fair to say there has been a disconnect between industry and university research. While there is much interesting work being undertaken, we need to do more to align what is happening in both areas.

Scotland has already made significant strides in its attempt to do this. Through a variety of initiatives, the Innovation Centres included, we are matching up the expertise of our world-leading academic institutions with the innovative businesses which could benefit from the knowledge and skills they possess.

In my own area of expertise, sensor and imaging system technology, a number of projects are already under way to this end. Recently, Optos and Glasgow University collaborated on a project which could change the way optical imaging is undertaken worldwide. It could also be used to make complex eye exams more accessible to remote locations and the developing world.

Elsewhere, Macphie of Glenbervie, and Heriot-Watt University have patented a new microwave sensor which will help the firm improve efficiency of production, reduce its environmental impact, and aid in the development of products.

Collaboration between the worlds of further education and business is the best way to bring about more successes like these. We have a golden opportunity to make Scotland’s academic institutions and businesses more competitive – but that won’t happen by itself.

• Ian Reid is chief executive of CENSIS

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