By Dr Siobhán Jordan

IT might not seem like the right moment to invest time and resource in research and development, and for some businesses this will be far from their current goals; however a recent survey from Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS),showed that 53 per cent of companies thought that creating innovative solutions to problems should be the top priority of businesses in future.

It is well documented that companies that innovate are more resilient in a crisis, and more likely to expand into new markets during disruptions and be able to retain staff and grow in difficult trading conditions.

I’m pleased to say that our annual results demonstrate a real buoyancy and desire by companies across Scotland to transform rapidly through innovation. It has been a record-breaking year for Interface and we are encouraged by how partnerships with academia are making a difference to help companies survive and thrive.

The pandemic required urgent ideas, solutions and immediate interventions. Interface, working in partnership with universities and colleges, has had its highest level of collaborations established in this past academic year, up to July, with 329 projects delivered, creating and safeguarding 77 jobs. A 22% year-on-year increase in partnerships demonstrates that the entrepreneurial spirit in Scotland is thriving even during a time of crisis.

The past few months have shown the desire by academics of all disciplines to support company-led challenges that deliver new and/or improved products, processes and services in short time scales, delivering immediate impacts.

The key to success and of enabling positive impacts on Scotland’s economy and communities is the speed in which business-academic collaborations have been established, drawing in funding from a variety of UK bodies to support small and medium sized businesses’ partnerships with academics.

We are urging more businesses to grasp the opportunities brought by R&D in partnership with academics to help them innovate, adapt and overcome the impacts of the pandemic.

Interface supports business by unlocking knowledge, expertise, talent and facilities in universities and colleges. The outcomes from the free service are in line with the key recommendations in the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery report led by Benny Higgins and the Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review by Mark Logan to support and nurture businesses from start-up to maturity. Our pan-Scotland approach means that we deliver economic, environmental, and societal benefits in every region, by nurturing relationships with businesses large and small.

Although the majority of the companies we work with are Scottish, we have an increasing number of internationally-headquartered businesses seeking to tap into Scotland’s strong research base, bringing additional jobs and economic benefits

Recently, Celestia Technologies Group UK Ltd (Celestia UK), an international company specialising in developing advanced antenna systems, was supported by Interface and partners including Scottish Enterprise to set up a collaborative project at Heriot-Watt University. The university is now the company’s permanent Scottish base, with new engineering jobs created.

Last month Ivan McKee MSP, Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, announced £20million per year for a targeted inward investment plan saying that it will play an important part in driving Scotland’s economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic and support the Brexit transition.

Partnerships with universities and colleges are vital to scale businesses with the consequent benefits of job creation and enhanced profits. We all have a part to play in supporting the business community to rapidly realise innovative ideas, champion new business models, protect and create jobs to future-proof our economy. Through collaboration everything is possible.

Dr Siobhán Jordan is director of Interface