March 6, 2013 Leave a comment
A reception at Edinburgh Castle last night [05.03.2013] marked the official end of a programme that pioneered a distinctive approach to industry engagement and is now widely acknowledged as a model of best practice within the Scottish university sector.
The Converge project – funded by the European Regional Development Fund – was initiated in 2009 to create a world-leading resource for the University to forge links with industry; exchange knowledge; develop businesses and create jobs in Scotland.
A key aim of the project was to develop long term relationships with partners in industry and to specifically address their individual needs. The Heriot-Watt Business Development team acted as a first port of call – an interface between the companies and the University’s research teams.
Through Converge the University has worked on collaborative projects with companies of varying sizes, from micro companies through to large multinationals in a diverse spectrum of sectors, from high value manufacturing to energy and food and drink. The Engineering Design placements exemplify the approach. They are small, company-led research and design projects that companies give to students to manage. Last year’s programme saw 95 students working on 19 separate projects for 17 different companies including MacPhie of Glenbervie, MacTaggart Scott and STATS Group. The value of these projects has been recognised by oilfield service giant, Baker Hughes, which this year sponsored awards for participating students.
The ERDF funding was used to hire staff who undertook four main areas of activity: Entrepreneurship; Business Development; Marketing and Enterprise Creation through university spin-outs and the successful Converge Challenge, now Scotland’s largest university start-up competition. The results have been impressive:
- The total collaborative value of the project is £8million and it has supported 250 enterprises and the creation of 30 new products
- 25 new companies have been created in just over 3 years, raising a total of £1.2m investment
- Businesses helped by Converge expect to increase their turnover by £14.1 million and attribute £5.1 million of this increase directly to the University’s business development team
- These businesses expect to create an extra 146 jobs over the next 3 years
- If activity supported by the Converge project is sustained, then the project is expected to contribute an additional £36.6m GVA per year to the Scottish economy
Speaking at the launch, Professor Alan Miller, Deputy Principal, Research and Enterprise Services said:
“These collaborations have been truly symbiotic. For our partners they have led to new products, services, increased turnover and new jobs. Heriot-Watt has enjoyed publishable results, the opportunity to contribute research expertise; new licenses and long-term collaborative opportunities for academics. We wanted to create a world-leading resource for Heriot-Watt to be able to quickly and effectively respond to enquiries from industry. I think we can safely say – mission accomplished.”