Scots predict bright e-future

May 25, 2001

Strathclyde and Glasgow universities are setting up an institute that they believe will help make Scotland an international leader in e-living, e-business and e-services.

The institute, expected to have a turnover of £10 million in five years, will bring together industry and academic experts in communications, computer and information science and business and management.

Colin Suckling, Strathclyde's pro vice-principal, said the normal tendency for academic disciplines was to get increasingly narrow. "We are trying to take it the other way," he aid.

Tariq Durrani, of Strathclyde's department of electronic and electrical engineering, said: "Most of the issues that are emerging in the knowledge economy are multifaceted and multidisciplinary. You can't solve them just from a business perspective or just from a computing perspective."

The universities say the technological revolution is putting strain on computing and telecommunications systems. They believe a fundamental rethink of the basic models is necessary, rather than simply trying to increase computer processing power and telecommunications bandwidth.

They want to see interdisciplinary academic and industrial teams working together on research and development.

Adrienne Hall, Strathclyde's director of development, said: "The e-institute aims to 'think local, act global' by accelerating the growth of the knowledge economy in Scotland and by establishing itself as a lead player in delivering cutting-edge solutions to the industry internationally. A flourishing knowledge economy will increase Scotland's attractiveness as a place to live and work."

The e-institute will forge links with international high-tech companies, and hopes to announce its first partnership next month.

A key part of the e-institute will be its "living laboratory of the future", looking at case studies and letting businesses see how developments will affect their profits.

It will include between 100 and 200 people working through a "partner-associate model". Some academics will be long-term partners, others will be associates, coming in on a case-by-case basis.

There will also be industrial secondees. Professor Durrani said the institute would generate spin-offs, but also "spin-ins" from organisations that wanted to have staff working alongside academics.

Professor Suckling said: "One of the aspects of the knowledge economy is to try to set up a continuum, and not to have one box that is academic and one box that is industry."

The institute is expected to have its own city-centre premises, with funding coming from endowments, industry, research councils and government. It hopes for support through a £12 million fund announced by Wendy Alexander, Scotland's minister for enterprise and lifelong learning.

Ms Alexander said the Scottish Executive was giving the money to national development agency Scottish Enterprise "to support the creation of a new breed of globally connected Scottish institutes focused on generating economic and business benefits for the whole of Scotland".

Scotland had a global reputation for innovation, she said, but it had too few research and development intensive companies, and therefore a limited capacity to translate knowledge into products and services.

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