In­ter­face: con­nect­ing busi­nesses

The Oban Times - - Business -

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).

Lor­raine Thom­son.

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