Five Scottish universities have this week launched a Pounds 4 million venture to promote the entrepreneurial spirit in higher education and boost the commercialisation of Scottish inventiveness.
Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt and Strathclyde universities have joined forces to set up the Scottish Institute for Enterprise, whose board will include leading entrepreneurs as well as academics. It won funding under the government's Pounds 25 million competition to establish up to eight centres of enterprise across the United Kingdom, the highest award outside London.
Henry McLeish, Scotland's minister for enterprise and lifelong learning, launching the institute at Glasgow University, said it was significant not just because of what it aimed to do, but also because of the way it planned to achieve its aims.
"This is a marvellous example of collaboration that achieves a level of working together, between academic institutions and between academics and businesses, that is unprecedented in Scotland," he said.
The board will be chaired by Jim McColl of the international specialist engineering group Clyde Blowers, who was named "entrepreneur of the year" in 1999.
"The institute will work to promote an entrepreneurial culture, not only among today's scientists and engineers, but also among the next generation, by giving students access to the skills and thinking that will underpin the economic application of their knowledge," said Mr McColl.
While the core of the institute is in Glasgow, Dundee University is housing a new enterprise management centre, which will offer enterprise courses for all fourth-year and postgraduate students in science and engineering. Dundee plans eventually to extend these courses to students throughout the university.
The five universities admit that, historically, Scotland does not have a good record in converting inventiveness into economic opportunity. But they believe that working together will let them build on recent achievements.
Existing spin-off companies include Cyclacel Ltd from Dundee, which aims to develop cancer cures, and the Vision Group, which developed the world's first single-chip camera.
Research, pages 32-33