Scots universities ‘bring in half of foreign cash’

Edinburgh Napier University's Craiglockhart campus. Picture: Jane Barlow
Edinburgh Napier University's Craiglockhart campus. Picture: Jane Barlow
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SCOTLAND’S universities play a crucial role in attracting foreign investment to the country, a ­report claims today.

The higher education sector is one of the key reasons foreign investors come to Scotland, the new analysis by Universities Scotland reveals.

The report found universities produced highly skilled graduates, world-class research and development facilities, and clusters of industry, all of which helped attract overseas investors.

Only the energy and financial and business services sectors contribute more in terms of adding value to the economy, the report said.

Universities play a role in ­almost half of all foreign ­direct investment into Scotland, ­according to the report published today.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) creates jobs at all levels and contributes to sustainable economic growth, the report said.

Scotland performs very strongly in the competition for FDI, punching well above its weight and leading the way on FDI projects in the UK outside of London.

The report cited GlaxoSmithKline, Samsung Heavy Industries, Dakari, SAS, ­ResHydro, Moln-lycke, Toshiba Medical, Fujitsu, Odyssey Financial Technologies and enStratus as examples of firms which have all invested or expanded projects in Scotland in the last couple of years, claiming universities were a determining factor.

Professor Andrew Goudie, former director-general of economy and chief economic adviser to the Scottish Government, said: “Universities are recognised throughout the world as one of the critical drivers of sustainable economic growth.

“National comparative advantage in highly competitive global markets rests heavily on the capacity of universities to educate and produce knowledge and research that are truly acknowledged as being globally excellent.

“An outstanding higher education sector is therefore fundamental to our ambitions for a nation that is both wealthier and where economic success is at the heart of creating a cohesive society which enables individuals and communities to realise their full potential.”

The report said universities work with more than 26,000 companies to translate research and development into new products and processes for ­business.

Dundee, Edinburgh and ­Aberdeen were noted particularly for their biosciences work, while Glasgow was a world leader in the fields of renewable energy and biomedicine.

Anne MacColl, chief executive of Scottish Development International (SDI), said: “Universities are an integral component of Scotland’s ambitious international trade and investment strategy.

“Their contribution has genuine international reach. It has positive impacts upon Scottish exports, attracting new inward investment and on providing ­research excellence.”

Professor Steve Chapman, principal of Heriot-Watt University, said the report “uncovers the role universities have in helping to drive economic growth outside their sector, making Scotland a competitive place for foreign direct ­investment”.

Education secretary Michael Russell said: “The quality of teaching and research at our higher education institutions is internationally renowned.”