By Daniel Hunter

A new report compiled by Interface has found that collaboration between businesses and academia will be worth £79.9 million annually to the Scottish economy within the next 3-5 years.

Currently, academic partnerships facilitated by Interface contribute a substantial £17.1 million boost to Scotland’s GVA each year. But that figure is set to increase by 367% within 3-5 years, according to the growth projections of businesses which have worked with Interface.

In addition to economic growth, business collaboration with academia has been confirmed as a major contributor to safeguarding and creating Scottish jobs. Within the same timescale, 2,399 jobs will be supported by academic and business partnerships facilitated by Interface — a 566% increase on the 2010 figure.

Interface, supported by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), is the matchmaker which connects businesses with Scotland's 24 higher education and research institutes to stimulate innovation and growth. As a growing number of companies seek to collaborate with academia, the survey results reaffirm the importance of these partnerships for Scotland’s economic prosperity.

The new report has assessed the economic impact of Interface since it was established in 2005, during which time it has facilitated over 700 collaborative projects enabling Scottish businesses to increase turnover, create and safeguard jobs, secure export leads and maximise profitability.

The report asked companies across Scotland about their experience of working with academic partners to gauge the impact of knowledge exchange. As a result of projects facilitated by Interface:

· Almost all (95%) of the companies surveyed expect the turnover of their business to increase
· Around a third (29%) of respondents said that they expected the operating costs of their business to fall
· Half of these respondents (50%) said that they expected the productivity of their business to increase [Aqualife Services Ltd case study available]
· 57% of respondents expect their business to become more profitable
· 40% of respondents discussing collaborative projects with potential academic partners reported that they expected exports from their business to increase [Permaculture Ltd case study available]

Interface has worked with businesses across all sectors of the Scottish economy, in every region, to facilitate growth and innovation.

Dr Siobhán Jordan, Director of Interface, said: “Interface has carried out this substantial piece of new research to confirm the value of partnerships between businesses and academia. Within the next 3-5 years, the economic value of partnerships facilitated by Interface will be worth a staggering £79.9 million each year to Scotland.

“It is essential that businesses and academia recognise the opportunities available. Mutual collaboration between businesses and academia delivers tangible results. Not only do these collaborative partnerships boost the nation’s GVA, they also create and safeguard jobs while enhancing Scotland’s reputation on the global stage by developing export opportunities.”

Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, John Swinney, said: “Innovative businesses, spanning all sectors and sizes - from micro to small and medium sized - are experiencing the benefits of working with world-class academics through the stimulation of new ideas and finding fresh approaches to their challenges. This is resulting in increased sales, productivity gains and the development of new products and services.

“Interface has a very valuable role in that process and is to be congratulated on the positive findings set out in this report.

“We want all of Scotland’s businesses to benefit from, and have access to, such opportunities. That is why services such as those provided by Interface are key to helping translate our research successes into tangible results and increased economic growth for our businesses.”

David Watt, Director of the Institute of Directors (IOD), said: “Interface is a unique model within the UK and has helped Scotland cement its position as a leader in knowledge exchange. While organisations benefit by identifying a solution to a business challenge, the universities and research institutions can advance research and develop expertise in an industry environment and forge connections with key industry figures. The partnerships also provide valuable experience for students and early stage career researchers, giving them a chance to work on real business challenges.

“With a vast range of specialisms across Scotland’s Higher Education Institutes, businesses need an expert matchmaker to help them identify the best partner, which is where Interface proves its value.”

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