Coshep makes hi-tech proposal

April 21, 2000

The Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals has challenged the Scottish Parliament to adopt its radical six-point strategy to promote high-tech innovation.

John Archer, principal of Heriot-Watt University and convener of Coshep's research and commercialisation committee, said that while nobody doubted that Scotland's universities and colleges housed leading scientific research, the country's economic future could not rest on higher education institutions doing all the pushing. "Industry has to pull ideas through as well. The Scottish Parliament could play a very valuable role in breaking down some of the barriers to the commercialisation of research."

Coshep wants to see an industry research fund, warning that Scottish industry invests just 0.5 per cent of national GDP in research and development. Coshep says small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular lack a research culture. There should be ring-fenced resources within the enterprise budget, which industries could use to buy research and development, it believes.

While Scotland is an international leader in technological breakthroughs, it has an unimpressive Intellectual Property Rights record, says Coshep. Securing patents can be expensive and time consuming and it suggests drawing on the Japanese MITI scheme that gives institutions specialist help. Successful projects plough resources back into the scheme, unsuccessful ones are written off.

Coshep believes Scottish higher education's pioneering high-speed Metropolitan Area Networks could boost links between academics and industry. "Getting all research-oriented SMEs, government, enterprise agencies, research institutes and higher education institutions on to a single telecommunications network would enable an ever more rapid flow of information," it said.

Coshep praised the announcement of Pounds 11 million "proof of concept" funding over three years, aimed at bridging the gap between scientific discovery and the prototype stage. But, it says, this sum must be boosted, and the seven-month turnaround in decisions shortened.

It also calls on the Scottish Parliament to set up a mapping project to find out how Scotland's research, production, design and marketing capabilities can be brought together.

It wants to see a scheme bringing skilled graduates and undergraduates into the workplace as a way of transferring technology from higher education to the private sector.

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