COLLABORATION, and the power of partnerships, have been an important thread running through my life. I remember my late father, a physics professor, telling me that when he started out, his colleagues considered academics partnering with businesses as “lightweight science”.

Today things are, thankfully, very different. We have come a long way and the environment has completely changed. Now Scotland’s businesses and academics are reaping the rewards from the power of collaboration.

Scotland has a fantastic research base, with some amazing, innovative companies, and BERD (Business Expenditure in Research and Development), a key indicator of innovation, has increased greatly over the last decade . However, there is still a long way to go to align innovative companies with the academic opportunities we have.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships do exactly this. They help link up businesses which have ambitious innovation plans but not all the in-house expertise to develop them, with universities and researchers which have the very expertise they need.

KTPs are all about collaboration, and creating lasting relationships between a business or not-for-profit organisation, a UK university or research organisation, and a graduate. This three-way partnership works on a strategic innovation project bringing about transformative change and, importantly, embedding new, lasting capability. A virtuous triangle of business, academia and bright young minds.

The power of collaboration, and working across sectors, can transform the most traditional of companies. A great example of this is the partnership with Montrose Rope & Sail. Established 200 years ago, the family-run business supplies tarpaulin covers and bags for the oil and gas industry.

By enlisting help from designer Amy Gair from Gray’s School of Art as a KTP Associate, they have now developed and added a line of high-end luxury fashion bags and luggage. The partnership stimulated a whole new mindset and they are now looking to export to new markets such as the United States and Japan.

This illustrates the exciting power of working across sectors. We know from the way we teach our children, and how we design our businesses and universities, that we create these sector and disciplinary divides ourselves. By working across and between these divides, real magic can happen. Collaboration can have a lasting impact on how we think, our attitudes and our ideas.

Previously I spent seven years in India and China collaborating across cultural boundaries. Although challenging for me and my family, it made us realise what was possible in life and that many of the boundaries we had preconceived really did not exist. It made us brave.

At the Knowledge Transfer Network we work across all kinds of boundaries, and we can do this because we have deep, expert knowledge and an extensive network of around 160,000 individuals and 40,000 organisations. We are very proud to support and help deliver KTPs in Scotland and the UK.

With more than100 KTPs in Scotland, about 12 per cent of the UK total, Scotland punches above its weight (Scotland’s population is about eight per cent of the UK’s). This is because the Scottish Funding Council and the Scottish Government realise the opportunities that Knowledge Transfer Partnerships afford, and are investing in them. We need to make the most of that.

My last point is a personal one – it’s about looking outwards. The world is changing very quickly and with all that change comes opportunity. We can only make the most of it if we work together and are organised.

So, as partners across Scotland, we need to explore opportunities beyond Scotland and look outside. We need to be working together as Team Scotland, both at home and away.