Four Scottish tech development teams given green light to bid for a share of £236m growth fund

Scotland came one step closer to securing lucrative contracts in industrial biotechnology, quantum technology, medicine and finance this week with a funding boost of up to £200,000.  

Following an eagerly-awaited announcement, four Scottish projects learned that they had made it through a highly competitive field of contenders to the final stage of bids for a share of a larger £236 million pot.

The Strength in Places Fund was confirmed by Westminster in the 2018 Budget to boost economic growth. It will be allocated under the umbrella of the UK Government’s Industrial strategy.

According to UK Research and Innovation, a new body established to create a fertile environment for research and innovation, the fund will “lead to significant economic impact, high-value job creation and regional growth”.

The four successful projects will now develop their bids to receive up to £50 million each in investment – each one financed by up to £50,000 of early-stage funding. They must show their ideas will drive substantial economic growth for the region. 

The teams behind the shortlisted projects will submit proposals to UK Research and Innovation in late 2019. At the end of the process, four to eight of the strongest submissions in the UK will receive between £10 million and £50 million to transform the projects into reality. 

Speaking at the time of the announcement, Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, said: “Our clear vision is to ensure we benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas. Significant support through the Strength in Places Fund will further catalyse economic potential across the country by bringing researchers, industry and regional leadership together to drive sustained growth through world-class research and innovation.”

In the east of Scotland, Fintech Scotland is bidding to create a Global Centre of Excellence in Open Banking. The project will aim to promote the further growth of the kind of progressive financial and technology partnerships that are already taking root in the region. 

A bid led by the University of Strathclyde wants to accelerate the 4th industrial revolution across Scotland’s Central Belt. It will focus on amplifying the economic impact of the burgeoning industrial biotechnology sector by developing new biology-based products and platforms. 

Meanwhile, the University of Glasgow is leading a proposal to establish The Living Lab. The Lab’s purpose will be to translate science and innovation in precision medicine into the real world of hospitals and patient care. 

Finally, the Clyde Waterfront Innovation Campus, fronted by the University of Glasgow could provide the catalyst for exciting innovations in the manufacture of new high-tech technology products based on photonics, optoelectronics and quantum technology.

Underlining the transformational power of bringing together world-leading university research and forward-looking businesses, the man in charge of the Strength in Places Fund, David Sweeney, has said that the investments UK Research and Innovation will eventually make will “foster the local ecosystems that can support innovation and sustained growth and will strengthen collaboration between industry and our world-class research base”.

In Scotland the Strength in Places Fund programme works in partnership with the Scottish Funding Council (SFC). 

Stuart Fancey, Director of Research and Innovation at the Scottish Funding Council, said: “Competition to be shortlisted was incredibly fierce and there had to be strong evidence that the projects would have a positive impact on their regions. Scotland has world-leading research in each of its 19 universities and exciting business opportunities to build on, so Scottish-based bids were strong contenders in the process. I am delighted to see these projects making it through to the final stage. The Scottish Funding Council will continue to work hard to support them and I look forward to further good news towards the end of the year.”

For SFC, the Strength in Places programme is strategically placed within a funding portfolio that currently helps to support, along with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, eight Scottish Innovation Centres. The Scottish Funding Council is also investing in college based STEM hubs and other initiatives to ensure that skilled workforce will exist to help to make a STEM-based Scottish economy a reality. 

The public agency partnerships supporting these future-looking, Scotland-wide initiatives have been strengthened by the recent establishment of a national Skills and Enterprise Board. 

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Smart approach is a quantum leap

THE UK’s Quantum Technology Hub specialising in Quantum Enhanced Imaging – QuantIC – was set up to work with industry to translate quantum science into new imaging technologies. 

It is one of only four Quantum Technology Hubs in the country, bringing together leading academics from a number of UK and Scottish universities, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Heriot Watt. The Hub is located at the University of Glasgow in a £3 million quantum technology innovation space paid for by the Scottish Funding Council. 

A major aspect of its industry engagement has been the hub’s £4m Partnership Resource Fund (PFR) targeted at projects that demonstrate the applicability of QuantIC technologies to solve imaging problems.

HeraldScotland:

market-savvy: The QuantIC team’s projects determine whether a technology has the potential to offer a competitive edge.

The fund is managed by an industry-led board to ensure market awareness and industrial oversight in its allocation. PRF projects are aimed at determining whether a technology has the potential to offer a competitive edge in terms of new functionality, improved performance or cost.

QuantIC has supported over 38 industry-led projects, invested over £3.7m and leveraged more than £2.3m of industrial support. The Hub has also supported innovation by participating in eight Innovate UK projects worth over £1.2m.

It has also introduced an innovative studentship programme and has awarded over £500,000 across 13 industry led projects. QuantIC is currently developing a new generation of “quantum-inside” and “quantum-inspired” cameras capable of creating information-rich images that are inaccessible to current technologies.

In support of this work, QuantIC has built a range of demonstrators to display the achievements of the programme so far and to illustrate their potential for development.
One of the features that make QuantIC so successful is its ability to take advantage of discoveries generated by its constituent members and research teams. This growing portfolio of research provides a “technology pipeline” to feed the hub’s innovation programme. 

QuantIC is part of the £270m the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme (UKNQTP). This programme is credited with giving the UK a head start in the international race to industrialise quantum technologies. In a competitive marketplace, the management team at QuantIC recognises that much work is needed to retain the momentum created by UKNQTP, but sees the hub as being well positioned to meet this challenge head on. Over the next two years, it expects a number of QuantIC products to be taken to market either in collaboration with industry partners or as new spin-out companies