Interface forges key R&D relationships between businesses and academics - Prof Andrea Nolan

In March 2022 Interface reached a major milestone, achieving 3,000 business-academic collaborations with Scottish universities and colleges. Interface was established nearly 17 years ago with the objective of enabling companies and universities in Scotland to collaborate, to promote innovation and ultimately help deliver economic and societal benefits for Scotland. 

Professor Andrea Nolan, Chair, Interface Strategic Board

Primarily funded by the Scottish Funding Council, as well as Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise, the impacts of these business-academic partnerships the team have facilitated have been far-reaching and have gained Interface recognition across Scotland and internationally.

The contribution to the Scottish economy from research and development projects between businesses and academics enabled by Interface has been £88.9m GVA (gross value added) supporting 1,595 jobs, with expectations to reach £222.3 million GVA and 3,193 jobs.

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In total the Business Engagement team have translated over 6,100 business challenges for issue to Scotland’s academic institutions. Interface is a small organisation with a wide reach – to have facilitated 3,000 collaborative projects with almost 2,000 unique businesses is a remarkable achievement. In addition, Interface has administered almost 2,000 Innovation Vouchers on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council with almost 1,800 unique businesses benefiting from this funding. Interface’s inclusive approach means that all rural and urban businesses and communities can access innovation support and ensures delivery right across Scottish Government priorities including health, environment, communities, education, young people, and international development.

Interface continues to play a crucial role in building Scotland’s economic resilience as part of the innovation ecosystem brokering projects that deliver short term impacts, for example responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as contributing to longer term targets such as net zero.

Interface’s committed team enable the creation of lasting and effective R&D relationships between businesses and universities, with 75% of businesses maintaining an ongoing relationship with university partners following Interface’s match-making service.

From five collaboration in 2005, our first year, to an annual peak of 382 last year, despite the pandemic-induced “lock-down”, we are on track to grow engagement further this year.

Projects come from all regions of Scotland and from across all sectors. The last three years have seen significant increases in projects from the Highlands and Islands, Aberdeenshire and Ayrshire while the top 5 key industry sectors are:

Creative Industries Food & Drink, Agriculture and Aquaculture Tourism & Leisure Engineering & Technology Life & Chemical Sciences

When surveyed following collaborations,

97% of businesses said that their project would either not have happened or taken longer without support from Interface. For those businesses or social enterprises who have not used Interface it’s worth noting that

92% of our expertise searches identified capability and capacity within partner universities, research institutes and colleges for consideration by the companies – so solutions to many challenges are likely to be found within Scotland. And following work with a matched academic partner 83% of businesses recorded reduced operating costs, increased productivity, profits, export, turnover and new or safeguarded employment.

If you are a business needing help with new product development, process improvement, or want to try a different technology Interface could help match you with a leading Scottish University or College, so get in touch today.

Professor Andrea Nolan, Chair, Interface Strategic Board

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