Heriot-Watt tie-up to unlock £500bn digital opportunity for Scots businesses

Heriot-Watt University has sealed a new partnership to help place Scotland at the forefront of the “Internet of Things” revolution and tap into a global market worth some £500 billion.

The Edinburgh institution is welcoming Censis, Scotland's innovation centre for sensing, imaging and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, to its ground-breaking GRID research facility in a move that will help Scottish businesses tap into the vast range of opportunities presented through advanced digital systems.

Sensing and imaging systems are used in a wide range of industries including health, social care, agriculture, security and manufacturing to gather information by detecting physical, chemical or biological signals and converting them into readable data. The Internet of Things is a network of physical objects that are embedded with sensors that then share this data with other devices and systems over the internet.

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The new additional location for Censis will see the innovation centre increase its regional presence in Edinburgh and the Lothians through its first east coast “hub” located at the university’s Riccarton Campus on the outskirts of the capital.

Heriot-Watt’s GRID facility was established to advance global research, innovation and discovery to solve industry challenges and drive the commercialisation of academic research. Through the tie-up, Censis will further support businesses and public sector organisations in the area to accelerate the development of new sensor and imaging-led products and services. Scotland has a strong and growing reputation in sensing and IoT systems and it is estimated that the sector contributes more than £2.5bn a year to the Scottish economy as part of a global market worth in excess of $600bn (£475bn), and expanding rapidly.

The formal partnership between Heriot-Watt and Censis marks the continuation of a “long and successful relationship”, university leaders said. Most recently, researchers and technology engineers worked together to deliver a sensing and IoT system that improves safety in dental surgeries by detecting airborne particles and contaminants that can lead to the transmission of infections such as Covid-19.

David Richardson, chief entrepreneurial executive of Heriot-Watt Enterprise, the university’s commercial arm, said: “Censis is a great supporter for companies aiming to develop or get started with IoT and sensing, and a natural fit for our GRID facility. Together, we aim to positively contribute to Scotland’s economy by encouraging further innovation in technologies that drive real-world impact for businesses and organisations. At Heriot-Watt, we have a long and proud track-record of delivering commercial, strategic and innovation support and taking world-leading research from lab to market.

“We’re committed to growing greater cohesion between academic research, business enterprise and entrepreneurial talent, which we’ve demonstrated by recently bolstering our commercialisation team,” he added. “The opportunities to collaborate with business and industry are as exciting as they are endless. We look forward to working closer with Censis, building future partnerships and helping companies across a range of sectors and sizes grow into exciting, profitable, world-class businesses.”

Censis will now have an east coast 'hub' located at Heriot-Watt's Riccarton Campus on the outskirts of the capital.Censis will now have an east coast 'hub' located at Heriot-Watt's Riccarton Campus on the outskirts of the capital.
Censis will now have an east coast 'hub' located at Heriot-Watt's Riccarton Campus on the outskirts of the capital.

Paul Winstanley, chief executive of Censis, said: “Our new hub at Heriot-Watt University marks the beginning of another exciting chapter for Censis and comes as we celebrate our tenth anniversary in 2023. We have worked closely with the university’s academic partners throughout that decade, but having a permanent base at the campus will no doubt lead to greater collaboration and unlock further opportunities. By joining up academic expertise with Scottish businesses we can aid the development of even more technology-led processes and products that can boost efficiency, health and safety and even cut carbon emissions across a range of sectors.”

Last year, Censis announced that it was expanding a programme to help Scotland’s small businesses, spin-outs and start-ups get to grips with cyber security issues relating to IoT products and services. After a successful first year that saw more than 20 companies receive free guidance and advice from the centre’s IoT experts, Censis secured additional funding from the Scottish Government to continue running the programme for a further 12 months. Censis said it would be working with companies at any stage of product, service or process development to identify their needs and challenges.

News of the Heriot-Watt partnership comes as new research reveals that 39 per cent of consumers in Scotland think that the metaverse - a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users - will become widely used in the next decade. Professional services giant KPMG polled 250 Scots asking for their views and found that the nation is divided on what the metaverse is best used for, and how long it’ll take for it to become widely used. Nearly a third of Scots have positive opinions of the metaverse (29 per cent) and just over a third (35 per cent) have negative opinions of the metaverse, but well over a third (37 per cent) don’t know enough to form an opinion or have no opinion.

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Ian West, head of technology and alliances at KPMG UK, said: “Perceptions of the metaverse from Scottish consumers seem broadly positive but there is more to be done by those who seek to pursue metaverse applications to persuade potential customers of its benefits. One of the main issues with the metaverse is that there is a lot of confusion around what it is. Some people argue it’s been around for years through things like gaming headsets, so being clear around what a metaverse future looks like will not only help consumer confidence, but business confidence too,” he added.

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