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Developing Scottish Enabling Technologies: Plans Revealed

Oct 27 2017 Comments 0

A report which forms a blueprint for doubling the enabling technologies sector in Scotland’s Central Belt has been produced by a consortium led by Glasgow Economic Leadership, which is chaired by Strathclyde Principal Professor Sir Jim McDonald. Strathclyde was a partner in the consortium, with the universities of Glasgow and Heriot Watt.

The Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) identifies vast potential in the region for growth in enabling technologies, which covers fields including electronics, sensors, photonics, industrial biochemistry and quantum technologies. The report sets out a vision for:

Doubling the region’s enabling technology asset base over the next 10 years

Increasing productivity by 3% per annum in the manufacturing and infrastructure sectors, initially in the Central Belt but with scope to replicate the gains across Scotland and the UK

Creating an internationally recognised cluster of enabling technology growth companies in the central belt.

Sir Jim said: “The Central Belt is home to some of the UK’s most research-active universities and to a growing translational infrastructure, focused on responding to market demand and anticipating disruptive change.

“The enabling technology sector is relatively small in the Scottish economy, producing 1% of GVA, but it produces 10% of Scottish exports and invests 25% of business enterprise research and development.

“Our regional innovation system has developed remarkably over the last 15 years, from research pooling to innovation centres, Fraunhofer and Catapults. With investment, this system can build a vibrant, internationally competitive photonics and quantum sensing cluster. Through technology integration, our enabling technology sector can help the digital transition of manufacturing in highly specialised application areas – including forming and forging and industrial biotechnology – creating thousands of jobs. And it can support our infrastructure sectors, particularly energy, to make big performance improvements through sophisticated sensing and control systems.”

Proposals for achieving the aims of the audit’s vision include:

Co-investment by the UK and Scottish Governments in the proposed National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland, as part of the UK High Value Manufacturing Network, in which Strathclyde is a partner

Establishing headquarters and/or nodes of UK Catapult centres in the Central Belt

Investment in the creation of a new, large-scale systems and integration centre, or ’virtual foundry, to facilitate the rapid combination and testing of quantum and photonics technologies

Expansion of apprenticeships and work-based learning programmes

Strategic investment to extend the scope and linkages of Strathclyde’s Power Networks Demonstration Centre, based in Cumbernauld.

The audit was sponsored by the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

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