Scottish innovation model to stimulate Australian economy

16 November

Dr Siobhán Jordan, the Director of Interface Scotland will visit Victoria from 23–30 November as the 2015 veski resident, to share how she and her team have connected Scottish universities and research institutions with industry to develop an innovation economy.

Interface is an independent agency that has brokered knowledge connections for the past decade throughout the regions in Scotland and across all sectors including Med Tech, Life Sciences, Engineering, Food and Drink, Manufacturing, Energy, Social Enterprise, Tourism, Textiles, Forestry and Defence.

The Interface team currently facilitates 180 projects each year and research shows that 79 per cent of clients report an increase in productivity and by 2018, £80million GVA and 2,400 jobs will be added to the Scottish economy.

The 2015 veski residency is in partnership with Monash University, and continues the work of veski to build innovation and capacity in the Australian economy through talent attraction, a connected community and skills training.

veski chief executive officer Julia L Page said “Dr Jordan’s work with Interface is already an exemplar to several countries and we believe its model can be developed in Australia “.

Ms Page said “Australia’s campuses yield great expertise and state of the art facilities, but OECD figures show that we are performing poorly on university business collaboration. veski is making it possible for Australia to learn from models that are working elsewhere.”

Dr Jordan said academic expertise can save time and money for businesses who need help with concept generation and selection, simulations, calculations, costing, sustainability, prototyping, brainstorming, design for manufacture, trials and testing.

“We have seen businesses from all sectors benefit - from students working with start ups and gaining employment, to data security for the finance sector, high nutrition seaweed products, new beers, a vertical sorting system for minerals, solar thermal panels for domestic application or innovative foot care for footballers and elite athletes,” she said.

Dr Jordan said Interface works because it is government supported, yet independent and able to offer a single point of access for business to all Scottish universities and research institutions.

“We are a key component of the business support landscape in Scotland working with sector focused innovation centres, enterprise agencies, and academic partners to promote expertise technologies and facilities that boost business innovation.”

As part of her veski residency Dr Jordan will visit Monash University precinct, and CSIRO, and meet with the Deputy Vice Chancellors of Research for Victorian Universities to talk about the value of academic teams working with SME’s.

She will also have the opportunity to share with business leaders and start-up initiatives how Scotland has made the knowledge connections work.

Dr Jordan said “Scotland is certainly developing an entrepreneurial and innovation culture, with strong results for everyone involved. For example, over 50 per cent of companies surveyed introduce a new product, process or service within one year of completing their partnership with academia.” 

Mara Seaweed is a good example of a business that has developed its products, dubbed the "super food of the sea", with academic input at several stages of their journey. The company, which harvests seaweed in Scotland to sell as seasoning, has gone from strength to strength since working with Interface five years ago to find academics to prove their product's nutritional values after being awarded a £5,000 Innovation Voucher.

Mara Seaweed collaborated with academics again with a Follow-On Innovation Voucher to develop market-ready products, conduct consumer trials, develop recipe cards, packaging and labeling and produce a technical report on dried seaweed production.

An award of almost £400,000 of Innovate UK Agri-Tech catalyst funding enabled Mara to develop reliable year-round seaweed production on a scale to match commercial demand. Mara now sells throughout the UK and recently launched a crowd funding drive to explore new overseas markets.

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