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24 November 2014
Mutual interests

Mutual interests

The focus of global research continues to shift, with rising research nations such as China and Brazil competing on a global stage with longstanding research powerhouses such as the UK, Germany, France and the US.

The UK punches above its weight as a research nation. While the UK represents just 0.9 per cent of global population, 3.2 per cent of research and development expenditure and 4.1 per cent of researchers, it accounts for 9.5 per cent of downloads, 11.6 per cent of citations and 15.9 per cent of the world’s most highly-cited articles. Amongst its comparator countries, the UK has overtaken the US to rank first by so-called field-weighted citation impact – an indicator of research quality.

But while the UK delivers increasingly high-quality research on broadly stable or declining R&D expenditure, its relative standing is being eroded pressure from the emerging nations of the east, particularly China. The UK is well-positioned to remain a research leader in the future but continued investment in the research base is essential.

So too, is collaboration between academia and business.

Building work has begun on a new enterprise and research centre at Inverness Campus. The building will house a new collaboration between two of the region’s key strategic organisations: economic and community development agency, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), and the University of the Highlands and Islands. They are due to occupy the building from late next year.

The collaborative model of the nearby Centre for Health Science was the inspiration behind the new building. Under the same roof, economic development specialists and university research teams will share facilities, knowledge and experience within a purpose-built facility. The partnership will use digital technologies to promote the Highlands and islands to potential investors and support higher and further education across the region and further afield.

Alex Paterson, chief executive of HIE, said: “Collaboration between business academia and economic development is at the heart of the Inverness Campus ethos. This innovative co-location project will strengthen the universities sector, broaden the region’s research base and provide a focus to attract new investment and jobs to all parts of the Highlands and islands.

“Development of an innovative Digital Excellence Centre will enable us to raise awareness of the benefits of digital technology and drive the benefits from the £146m project HIE is leading to roll out next-generation broadband across the Highlands and islands.”

The University of the Highlands and Islands plans to locate several new research teams in the centre, creating new opportunities in addition to around 20 new jobs. Planned features include a life sciences postgraduate education facility, a learning and teaching academy, and specialised training and accreditation for the oil and gas industry.

Professor Clive Mulholland, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands, said: “We are looking forward to the opportunities this joint facility brings and will undoubtedly stimulate in the future. Our university should have a transformational impact on the development and prospects of our region, its people and communities. To achieve that, we must be integrated into the fabric of centres of potential economic growth such as this fantastic new campus.” 

In addition to HIE staff, a number of the organisation’s partners, including the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service (SMAS), Interface, and Scottish Development International (SDI), will also be based at the centre. It is expected that the centre will also include Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) research and consultancy services activity; a facility for the promotion and development of science, technology and engineering skills to young people throughout the Highlands and islands region and a digital technology demonstration centre.

Architects Sheppard Robson designed the £11m building which is being built by Morrison Construction. HIE and the University of the Highlands and Islands will co-own the new building, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. Funding contributions for the development have come from the European Regional Development Fund, University of the Highlands and Islands, HIE and Highland Council.

Developed by HIE, Inverness Campus occupies 215 acres of prime development land, offering a high quality environment for learning, innovation, collaboration and business development. It offers an opportunity for enterprising organisations to locate alongside others inspired by the chance to work together and share knowledge to grow their business or project.

Inverness Campus will attract businesses, professionals and students to the region and is expected to generate up to 6,000 jobs over the next 30 years. In August 2015, Inverness College UHI, the largest partner in the University of the Highlands and Islands, will be one of the first buildings to open at Inverness Campus. The new premises will enable the college to realise its vision of creating a tertiary education environment for the 21st century.

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