New Herald campaign highlights how Scots have remained at the forefront of global technological and scientific advances

Scotland has long punched well above its weight when it comes to seismic technological, scientific and engineering innovations, leading the way and serving as a global inspiration with countless game-changing breakthroughs which have transformed the way we live, work and play.

From Dr Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, Lord Kelvin’s mathematical equations which changed the face of physics to shipbuilding triumphs such as The Cutty Sark and the QE2 – marvels of engineering which can be directly traced back to James Watt’s revolutionary steam engine innovations – Scots have always led from the front when it comes to changing the world through our ingenious real-world application of scientific and technological breakthroughs. 

Yet, we cannot rest on our laurels –today’s complex, constantly changing world is reliant on the same skyscraping levels of ingenuity and research as displayed by our ancestors’ rich heritage of achievement.
Perhaps, unless you are directly involved in the world of science and technology, you may have little idea about the current groundbreaking global advancements still taking place Scotland.

So today, The Herald is launching a new campaign to shine a light upon the achievements of scientists, engineers and academics – while also encouraging a whole new generation of potential pioneers to take up essential STEM subjects in school and further education.

Glasgow in particular is once again a major player in the world of science, technology, education and engineering. Yet, despite thousands of specialists, staff and students working on cutting-edge projects and billions of pounds being invested in providing the facilities to transform the city into a global force for good, many of the successes are among the city’s best kept secrets.

The city’s tech firms, for example, have launched more satellites than any city in Europe. Our universities are working on nano-technologies which will provide instant checks for killer diseases by using paper test kits smaller than a finger nail.

Projects using virtual reality software developed in Glasgow are on the brink of providing true-to-life medical “patients” and are offering enhanced round-the-clock support for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

City medical specialists are working to create personalised health regimes for victims of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), of which Glasgow has one of the highest incidences in the world. 
And, across the country teams are developing everything from driverless cars and augmented reality to wearable technologies which will provide advance notice of cardiovascular issues.

Over the coming months, The Herald will tell each of these stories and explain why they matter to every one of us. Scotland is truly is a global gamechanger once again and The Herald aims to tell the world about it. 
Principal and Vice Chancellor of STEM campaign partner the University of Glasgow, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, said: “The University of Glasgow research has helped unlock the secrets of gravitational waves; position Scotland as a leader in precision medicine and chronic diseases; pioneer the possibilities of quantum and nanoscience, translating our fundamental understanding of these phenomena into applied technologies. 

“Our researchers have developed ground-breaking methods to reverse-engineer human cognitive processes — where, when, and how specific information is processed — from complex brain activity. We are using diagnostic tools and novel stem-cell based engineering solutions to target disease before symptoms are even evident. 

“The University of Glasgow is also an international hub for innovation in arts and culture and our research has an impact on all aspects of creativity, cultural life and the creative economy. We work with communities, governments and international organisations to develop policies aimed at creating fairer societies at home and abroad, and our one-health approach has delivered dramatic solutions to health inequalities. 

“To continue to do all of this, and much more, we are investing £1bn in a massive campus development over the next decade – much of it on the site of the former Western Infirmary. 

“Here we will create a world-leading innovation ecosystem which will attract and nurture talent, drive research and facilitate knowledge exchange, enterprise and economic growth. It is against this background of success and ambition that we are delighted to partner with The Herald’s STEM campaign.”

Founding Principal and CEO of STEM campaign partner City of Glasgow College, Paul Little, said: “Our college team has worked extremely hard since the pathfinder merger in 2010 to redefine and trailblaze a new era of college education in Scotland. Multi-award winning and widely regarded as a beacon of both excellence and innovation, we are extremely proud of the impact that the college is having on the Scottish economy in general and social mobility in particular. 

“Our £228 million twin site ‘super college’ offers immense industry scaled facilities right in the heart of Glasgow at our City Campus, and a specialist curriculum in nautical science and engineering at our Riverside Campus on the banks of the mighty River Clyde. 

“This is one of only four maritime facilities in the UK which delivers Merchant Navy officer training to Chief Engineer and Master Mariner level. 

“As the largest college and possibly largest technical institution in Scotland, City of Glasgow College offers over 2,000 programmes to meet the professional and learning needs of some 40,000 students. 

“Our pioneering Women Into Engineering initiative has been applauded by industry and is proving very popular with a significant increase in enrolments, work placements and public awareness of the gender imbalance in the sector. The College is focused firmly on delivering personalised learning to positively benefit each individual student. 

“For City of Glasgow College, this means forging relationships across a wide range of business sectors, from industry giants such as BAE Systems, Maersk and Microsoft through to the vital SME sector, which, according to recent statistics, account for 99 per cent of all Scottish enterprises. 

“We have shown how important investment in STEM education is and the benefits it can bring to Scotland’s young workforce and the future economy. We are delighted to partner with The Herald on this campaign.”

A spokesman for Dell EMC, which provides data storage, information security, virtualisation, analytics, cloud computing and other products and services that enable customers to store, manage, protect, and analyse data, said: “We are thrilled to support this Herald campaign.

“Across Dell EMC we are committed to encouraging women into STEM to close the IT skills gap which will facilitate digital transformation.”

To find out how you can become a partner with us in the campaign or learn more about this revolution on our doorstep contact


Clinical Innovation Zone seen as focus for developments

University of Glasgow is taking a leading role in developing public health expertise

SCOTLAND is at the forefront of a global medical revolution but further investment, more collaboration with industry and more people trained in STEM subjects are needed to maintain and advance that position, according to experts in the field.

Significant breakthroughs in the treatment of chronic diseases like cancer and arthritis are expected to be made by the development of precision medicine – breakthroughs that could save the NHS billions of pounds and boost the country’s economy as well as improving patient outcomes.

While the University of Glasgow has been leading the way, collaboration with industry and the NHS is the key to its success so far, according to Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak, vice-principal and head of the University’s College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences.


This “triple helix” approach involving academics, industry partners and the NHS has drawn the world’s attention to what is happening in Glasgow. “We stand on the brink of leading a genuine revolution in how we practise medicine – promising not just better outcomes for patients, but upwards of £70bn in savings for the NHS, contributing to inclusive economic growth and supporting thousands of new jobs in Scotland,” said Professor Dominiczak.

“It is about looking at the whole population even before they are sick and understanding that everybody could be subject to prevention in a slightly different way.”

The idea of precision medicine is to ensure the right patient receives the right treatment at the right time to provide safer and more cost-effective treatments with fewer adverse side-effects. It is believed this can be achieved with the help of all the new technologies now available.

“We now know, for example, that there are about 10 different sub types of breast cancer that require different treatments and by using new technology we will be able to select treatment for patients that is most effective and produces minimal side effects,” explained Professor Dominiczak.

Scotland is particularly well positioned to drive precision medicine because it has a good-sized population of 5.4 million who all use the NHS, she pointed out. There is a community health index, also known as a CHI number, which is a unique identifier for everyone and follows each individual’s health history from prebirth to chronic disease and everything in between. This data combined with the new diagnostic tools means diseases can be diagnosed more quickly and accurately with treatment made more specific to individuals.

Partnering with NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, the University of Glasgow has driven Scotland’s vision, including the development of over £80m infrastructure to support precision medicine clinical trials at the new Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH).  

The university has built an academic campus within the hospital as a platform for developing precision medicine for the whole of Scotland.
Academics and industry partners are embedded within this Clinical Innovation Zone and work with the NHS. It has already proved successful with several companies relocating from other countries to work there.
One example is BioClavis which moved from California because it was felt Scotland was a better place to develop precision medicine than the US where many people cannot afford health insurance to access the treatment they require. 

MR Coiltech relocated from Germany because of the new £32m Imaging Centre which houses Scotland’s only 7Tesla MRI scanner, the first of its kind to be fully integrated within a clinical site in the UK and which will drive the development of imaging technology for use in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

“We have been working very hard over the last four or five years to produce a platform where we all work together,” said Professor Dominiczak. “We are already visible internationally in leading this area of research and practical activity but we need to work hard and truly push boundaries as there is a lot of competition all over the world. We have a huge opportunity but we need to accelerate the pace of innovative development and the links between academia, NHS and industry.”
What could help Scotland stay at the forefront, she says, is the introduction of digital imaging for pathology, so that rather than looking down microscopes at glass slides, pathologists will have all the information they need on screen, easily accessed at any time.

“If we can do this and connect the whole of Scotland we would have something the whole world would want to copy,” said Professor Dominiczak. 

The University is also at a preliminary stage of developing a Living Laboratory, treating patients with multiple chronic conditions more effectively. “We can do it here first then spread it out methodically across the whole of Scotland,” she said. In addition, the University has worked with the Scottish Funding Council to help develop a Masters programme which is being used jointly by five Scottish universities to train graduates to work in precision medicine industries.

However, Professor Dominiczak says that is not enough. “We need more people skilled in data science, informatics, computing, maths, artificial intelligence and genomics and we need to train at various levels including apprenticeships,” she explained. 

“We do need investment for what we are doing as while we still have the position of being at the forefront, everybody is just running behind us and we don’t want them to overtake. We need to keep moving forward fast.”


Gaining a deeper understanding of workers’ safety

City of Glasgow College is aiming to reduce deaths from container ship oxygen depletion

OVER the last two years alone, the global shipping industry has had to cope with 107 sailors and harbour workers dying unexpectedly from lack of oxygen while working in enclosed spaces. 

However, ground breaking research from City of Glasgow College is providing the industry with both a better understanding of how enclosed spaces on vessels become oxygen depleted, and with improved training procedures for crews and harbour workers when approaching such spaces. 

As Douglas Morrison, STEM and Innovation Lead at the College explains, research by the college has shown that different materials, of the kinds stored in enclosed holds in vessels, absorb oxygen at different rates. 
When a person enters an oxygen depleted environment they are not walking into a vacuum, so the danger is not immediately clear to them.


“There is robust medical evidence to show what happens to the body when it becomes oxygen depleted. 

“What we are developing is a better understanding of how to train people to approach these spaces, and to provide evidence of the dangers associated with the varying ability of different materials within these spaces to also absorb oxygen from the atmosphere,” he comments.
Maritime literature contains hundreds of cases in recent years evidencing loss of life due to oxygen depletion on board a range of vessels from cargo to passenger ships. 

And the range of people affected include experienced sailors and port workers as one of the more tragic features associated with oxygen depleted spaces is that when an individual does not emerge from such a space, others go in after them and can succumb in their turn. 

“There are cases where not only the first responder, but the second, third and fourth responders have all perished because the reason for their non-emergence was not understood or the danger was under-estimated,” Morrison explains.

Part of the problem is that as the brain becomes oxygen depleted, which can happen very rapidly, the person becomes increasingly confused and unable to make decisions. Loss of consciousness and death follows rapidly.

The City of Glasgow College team discovered from their research that immediately adjacent spaces can also become dangerously oxygen depleted. 

If there are crew living quarters next to an oxygen depleted space that could pose a serious threat to health and safety.  

“Gas always seeks an equilibrium as far as its distribution across space is concerned. Even the minuscule space between the threads of a screw is sufficient to allow oxygen molecules to pass from a space with normal atmosphere to a space that is oxygen depleted,” he explains. 

“What we are doing is manufacturing a range of different spaces to show how oxygen depletes in them. That allowed us to highlight that adjacent spaces are also affected and can become hazardous. This happens as a result of the mild vacuum being created in the target space, the ‘cargo’ stored in the room also absorbs oxygen out of the air,” Morrison notes. 
City of Glasgow College has a robust half century maritime tradition and its network of contacts spans the industry so it was no surprise when the former principal of Cork College in Ireland, Daniel Burke asked the College to partner on the development of an applied research programme to look at the issue. 

“As a College specialising in technical and professional tertiary eduction, Daniel was aware we had capacity to support this specialist research so we are delighted he contacted us. 
“The work is incredibly interesting and ultimately could save lives,” Morrison says. 

The initial funding for the course came from the Maritime Education Foundation. This award came after the College had completed some 12 months of research on its own initiative. 
The team also received funding from the ADF for the research and are currently about a quarter of the way through the next phase of the study. 

City of Glasgow College has some 2000 distinct educational programmes, and Morrison estimates that at least a third of these are core STEM programmes, while another third have STEM-related content. 
“We think the STEM landscape in Scotland has never been in a better place. There are skills gaps across many sectors but the education sector is responding collaboratively with industry sectors to see that these gaps are addressed,” he comments. 

“There are routes into STEM learning and STEM careers for everyone, regardless of experience and demographic,” Morrison adds. 

“He points out that the entry qualification for courses varies from course to course. Experience with maths is always preferred, but for those without formal qualifications, we offer preparatory programmes that allow candidates to reach the minimum standard required to progress on 
to the course of their choice,” he explains.


Firm sees that schools hold the key to success in the future

IT firm CGI takes positive STEM message into the classroom

From local and public government to defence, energy, utilities and financial services, the information technology services company CGI has been a pioneer in the IT industry since it was founded more than 40 years ago. CGI has laid the foundation for critical technology infrastructure across a diverse group of sectors. 

The company has also been hard at work laying foundations that will shape the future of the IT industry by fostering greater diversity in the workplace. 

Steve Smart, Senior Vice President, CGI Scotland, explains: “Filling the skills gap is rooted in STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 


“But the number of young people entering the industry is dropping. We also have a significant gender gap in the industry, with a decreasing number of women choosing to make IT a career and stay in it.

“At CGI we are taking active steps to address these issues.”

“We need to work together to help the UK, and especially Scotland, remain competitive by addressing the Digital Divide. We need to show that working in IT is more than sitting at a desk writing programming all day long. We need to break the stigma and encourage our youth – of both genders – to look at STEM subjects as viable career options for the future.”

CGI is committed to supporting the STEM agenda in higher education and advice and support of public and private sector developments in emerging technology, skills and innovation is a core part of CGI’s DNA.  

CGI’s dedication to STEM from childhood is present in the STEM Camps and Bring Your Daughter to Work Day initiatives as often the search for talent begins when the employees of tomorrow are still at school. CGI members, which is how they refer to their employees, regularly volunteer to visit pupils and promote career opportunities at local schools and colleges. 

In addition to seeking candidates with diverse skillsets not specific to gender and increasing opportunities around STEM at entry level, CGI established an apprenticeships scheme that provides both men and women an equal path into the IT industry. 

CGI has been widely recognised for its approach to employee engagement and recruitment. It has been given several awards such as the recent Best School Leaver Programme at the TargetJobs National Graduate Recruitment Awards and the Top Employers Institute’s Top Employer in the UK Award, and it has retained Top Employer Europe certification for five years running.  

It supports a workplace environment that values a variety of opinions, perspectives and cultures, in order to maintain a working team that boasts not only breadth but the highest standard of performance. 

Mr Smart continued: “Founded in 1976, CGI is among the largest independent IT and business consulting services firms in the world. We have 74,000 professionals across the globe, some of whom are based in offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Melrose. 

“We are pleased to support this campaign as we recognise that training the modern workforce to work in a digital space is vital to growth and ensuring a highly skilled, international economy.”