Economic impact of Interface-supported collaborations reaches £64.2m
Business-academic projects supported by Interface have enabled Scottish companies to generate £64.2 million gross value added (GVA) a year for the Scottish economy, supporting around 1,060 Scottish jobs, a new report has revealed.
The long-term economic impact attributable to Interface could increase to more than £195.3 million GVA/year, supporting almost 3,500 jobs if future expectations of the businesses are realized.
Dr Siobhán Jordan, Director of Interface, said: “With the strong focus on innovation by designing and producing the products of the future to boost growth and create jobs in the Scottish Government’s vision for Scotland, this new report shows that marrying businesses to academic expertise has already delivered significant impact on our economy.
“Small and medium-sized enterprises play a crucial part in contributing to the economy and to our society and 95% of businesses we support have fewer than 50 employees.
“We have worked with thousands of companies matching them to universities, research institutes and colleges to create new products, services and processes, increase turnover, expand businesses to new markets and safeguard jobs in remote regions.”
Scottish Government Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse, said:
“Innovation is so important for our ambition to ‘shift the dial’ on boosting Scotland’s economic performance. Integral to this work will be driving greater collaboration between industry and academia, and building on existing research strengths.
“That is why I warmly welcome the role that Interface plays in connecting business and academia, and enabling SMEs to benefit from academic insight to drive forward their profitability and commercial success.
“Our universities, research institutes and colleges are a key part of Scotland’s innovation landscape and have a vital role in supporting business innovation. The Scotland CAN DO Innovation Action Plan shows how we want to make best use of university research knowledge and talent and the expertise of the college sector to drive economic growth. We are working with our Enterprise Agencies, the Scottish Funding Council, Universities Scotland and Interface to improve Scotland's innovation and knowledge exchange performance."
The report, carried out on behalf of Interface, shows that 46% of businesses have increased their turnover and 31% have increased employment as a result of collaborating with academia. 54% expect turnover and employment to increase in the future as a result of the collaborative project.
Academics and research teams also benefited from the business-led collaborations in a number of ways, including introductions to new research areas, entering international markets, additional research funding, new collaborative partnerships, developing intellectual property and commercial links. Academic institutions also benefited from increased reputation and new skills acquired by staff.
Several of the companies interviewed had experienced transformational effects on their business culture as a result of their interaction with Interface, with many reporting that the collaboration had been a catalyst for a long-lasting relationship with academia.
One such company is Kelso-based Scotmas, a leading manufacturer of water treatment, hygiene and environmental care products. It has undertaken around ten collaborative projects with academia since the original business challenge supported by Interface.
Managing Director, Alistair Cameron, said: “Interface's brokerage service has helped us to develop fundamental partnerships with several academic institutions over the years. This has enabled us to differentiate our products and as a result, be more competitive internationally having a direct effect on overseas sales and increased exports.”
The family business now employs 42 people and provides chlorine dioxide water solutions around the world – including in Doha for the Qatar World Cup 2022 and in villages in southern India.
Alistair added: “Over the next few years we expect to increase our turnover and expand the team by employing more staff. Most of this growth is anticipated to come from innovation-led projects, facilitated by the multi-disciplinary approach of Interface as well as subsequent collaborations that have occurred as a result of that initial relationship.”
Dr John Kemp, Interim Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council which funds Interface and the Innovation Voucher Programme, added: “With five universities in the top 200 of the Times Higher Education world rankings and three in the top 100, Scotland’s universities are world-leading institutions.
“Bringing together innovative and ambitious businesses with the research and discovery excellence of our universities is a winning idea for the Scottish economy and these figures show its value and its future potential.”
The report was launched following a visit to Interface from Paul Wheelhouse MSP Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy and Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science.