Interface: connecting businesses
Do you want to create or develop a new product, service or process to take your business forward, but need help to overcome some of the technicalities or de-risk the idea? If so, Interface could help you.
Interface connects businesses and organisations to Scottish universities, research institutions and colleges that can best provide the knowledge you need.
This free and impartial matchmaking service started in Scotland in 2005 and is designed to save businesses time and money. It has already helped hundreds of organisations across all sectors, including tourism, creative industries, energy and food and drink, to increase their profits, maximise their exports, and become more competitive in the marketplace.
Lorraine Thomson, who heads up Interface’s Highlands and Islands team explained: ‘We have worked with many businesses and organisations across the region and the feedback has been positive about their experiences of partnering with academics. We would love to help more local businesses meet their goals in this way.’
Among the businesses Lorraine and the team have supported are Craine Communications, Johnnie Mac’s Oysters, Zing Organics and Staffin Community Trust which were connected with Heriot-Watt University, Scotland’s Rural College, University of Strathclyde and The University of the Highlands and Islands respectively, for different projects to develop their business or organisation.
With the team travelling widely to meet business owners, you don’t even have to leave your premises – they can come to you. And you can work with any one of the 23 universities or research institutions in Scotland, as well as colleges.
Lorraine explained: ‘ We are really fortunate in this country to have some of the world’s top performing universities; five Scottish universities are listed in the world’s top 200 and eight in the top 50 in the UK – and they want to work with businesses large and small all over Scotland.
‘People sometimes think of research and development as being just for large corporates, however we have matched the very small microbusinesses to academic expertise many times with really positive results for both the business and the academic institution,’ said Lorraine.
Interface has introduced more than 2,500 businesses from across Scotland to academic partners, and almost a quarter had less than 10 employees.
‘We are here to support businesses through their collaboration with academic expertise and make the process of finding a suitable partner as straight-forward as possible; we really are matchmakers for businesses,’ Lorraine added.
From kitchen table enterpris- es to family-run companies, academics are seeking many businesses to partner with. And it is more than just academic expertise on offer; business can also access specialist facilities. 3D printers, microscopy, human performance labs, wave tanks, virtual reality and textile printing are just some of the types of facilities and equipment that are available to help your business to grow.
All you have to do is contact Interface. The team will establish your needs and prepare a brief which will be shared among the appropriate departments within universities. Those that are keen to help, register interest and you choose the best match for your needs.
The impacts of business-academic collaboration range from increasing turnover, reaching new markets, being able to take on more staff, launching new products, saving money on processes or improving services. Universities really benefit from real business interaction as well as they can apply their world leading research in the commercial world.
More than three- quarters of businesses that collaborate with academic expertise report an increase or expected increase in turnover and many continue to partner with academics, progressing feasibility studies or looking at further aspects of developing a product.
Also, 83 per cent of businesses collaborating with academia recorded reduced operating costs, increased productivity, profits, export, turnover or new/safeguarded employment. For areas where the economy is fragile, academic collaborations are making an important contribution.
The Interface team can help with information about funding options to offset the cost of collaborating with academia ranging from funding aimed at early stage feasibility studies and testing, to support for larger projects.
For more information on Interface please visit www.interface- online.org.uk/oban-times, or contact the team in Inverness: Lorraine. Thomson@ interface-online.org.uk tel: 01463 245263 (for businesses in Argyll and the Isles) or Carol-Ann.Adams@ interface- online.org.uk tel: 01463 245262 (for businesses in Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross).