New technology institutes to stimulate Scotland's private sector research

September 18, 2003

Brussels, 17 Sep 2003

Scottish Enterprise, Scotland's main economic development agency, has established three new research funding bodies whose mission is to raise the standard of private sector research and boost the Scottish economy.

The intermediary technology institutes (ITIs), the first of their kind in the UK, will invest some 650 million euro over ten years in three sectors of traditional Scottish strength: energy, the life sciences, and communications technology and digital media.

CORDIS News spoke to the newly appointed CEO of the ITI group holding company, Roger Dickinson, and asked him what factors had led to the establishment of the institutes.

'The standard of research in Scottish universities is traditionally very high, both in UK and global terms, but levels of research investment from industry currently stand at around 0.5 per cent of GDP,' explained Mr Dickinson.

As the existing framework failed to address this issue, a decision was taken to set up new research funding mechanisms, and after studying examples of best practice in other parts of the world, the ITI model was selected. Mr Dickinson noted that the creation of the ITIs was also compatible with the Barcelona target for research spending agreed by the EU's Heads of State and Government in 2002.

'The ITIs will take a medium to long term approach in each of the three industry sectors, identifying opportunities, challenges and research priorities five years or so down the line. The institutes will then pull together consortia of small and medium sized companies, universities, and big international players to address the issues identified,' said Mr Dickinson.

Indeed, building networks among the various types of organisations engaged in each of the three sectors is crucial to the institutes' success, Mr Dickinson stressed: 'The expertise contained within various parts of the networks will be used to shape the ITIs knowledge, and that knowledge will then be diffused back into the network as a whole.'

This process of knowledge transfer should be of particular benefit to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), giving them access to the types of market foresight activities usually the reserve of larger organisations. 'We want to raise the sights of SMEs,' declared Mr Dickinson.

Although some short term milestones for measuring the progress of the institutes will be set, success will ultimately be measured by the number of spin out companies and license agreements that the ITIs generate.

And Mr Dickinson believes that the benefits delivered by the institutes will not be limited to the creation of new companies and jobs in Scotland: 'We hope that the ITIs will lead to better retention of our own science graduates, and will attract researchers from across the world to Scotland.'

Add to this the extra investment in research by the private sector, and it is easy to understand why the chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, Robert Crawford, stated that: 'I firmly believe the technology institutes can form the core of a strategy that will position Scotland as a world class crucible of scientific innovation in several high potential technologies.'

For further information about Scottish Enterprise, please consult the following web address:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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