By Professor Milan Radosavljevic

AT a time of international conflict, a global pandemic, and a planet in severe distress due to human activity, it is safe to say we live in turbulent times.

In the last two years, universities have unequivocally demonstrated their value in finding solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. And we can acknowledge, with certainty, that universities are central to our sustainable future.

You would be wrong in thinking that universities are ivory towers: they are engines of creativity and innovation – anchor institutions that bring together pioneering researchers, and the communities they serve.

Not only have our universities recently been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19, they have shown incredible agility and responsiveness to the sudden and overwhelming distress faced by society globally, shining a light on the true value of the ground-breaking research taking place within our institutions.

It is therefore no surprise that a recent report by Universities UK noted £3.3 billion as the five-year forecast value of research between universities and non-academic partners in Scotland – second only to London.

In a post-pandemic world, research is more crucial than ever if we are to achieve economic stability, and environmental sustainability.

I am incredibly proud that University of the West of Scotland was recently ranked in the 2022 THE Impact Rankings as the top university in Scotland for inclusive and sustainable economic growth, as well as full and productive employment and decent work for all – and ranked fourth in the UK. This clearly evidences the direct impact of our institutions on local communities, and the wider impact on society globally.

Additionally, all Scottish universities were assessed within the top 20 per cent of more than 1,500 universities globally. An incredible result for the Scottish higher education sector, and further recognition of the impactful, globally relevant research being produced.

Scotland has always been a research leader – a trailblazer for innovation across decades. Collaboration has been the linchpin to these successes, and Scotland is home to one of the most diverse, yet highly collaborative, research environments there is.

Government’s support for collaboration and committed partnerships is pivotal and, while we all eagerly await results from the Research Excellence Framework (REF2021), it is worth emphasising that this support for collaborative research must be strengthened even further if we are to achieve future growth and sustainability.

The Scottish Government’s recently published 10-year national strategy for economic transformation gives me great hope, as our research capabilities are recognised as the basis of global competitive advantage, with the vision for Scotland to be a leader in research and development.

And while I obviously cannot predict the future, one outcome is for sure: if we continue nurturing our highly collaborative research environment, over the next 10 years, Scottish universities will lead the way in producing world-leading and highly impactful research for the benefit of society and our planet.

A worthy outcome of which Scotland should be incredibly proud.

Professor Milan Radosavljevic is Vice-Principal of Research, Innovation and Engagement at University of the West of Scotland.