Businesses in the Highlands and Islands could receive an economic boost from the launch of Scotland's leading point of entry into the country's top academic expertise.
£24 million is being added to the Scottish economy every year through successful business and academic partnerships brokered through Interface - the knowledge connection for business, which has opened a dedicated Inverness office to assist companies across the Highlands and Islands.
Interface is a Scottish Funding Council-backed initiative that offers a central point of access for industry to Scotland's research base through its unique matchmaking service. Its aim is to maximise business potential by matching a firm with the relevant expertise at universities and research institutes which can help develop solutions to R and D requirements.
Dr Siobhán Jordan, director of Interface, is urging businesses across the region to make contact with the Inverness team. "The decision to expand our services north is to enable Interface to build on its already successful record of growing partnerships in the Highlands and Islands. We have worked with companies in a number of sectors to assist firms considering academic support in order to help solve their business challenges.
"Our new team, which will share premises with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, will offer free and impartial, face-to-face advice, help businesses to increase their competitiveness, develop new products and exploit new market opportunities by connecting them with academia."
Funding for the expansion has been provided through Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Funding Council.
Charlotte Wright, Director of Business and Sector Development with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said the benefits of business collaboration with academic partners were well established.
"I'm absolutely delighted that Interface now has a presence in the Highlands and Islands," she said.
"HIE is already working with several Scottish higher education institutions which have a presence in the region, and we've also helped a number of businesses access world-class expertise through our relationship with Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"Interface will help us reach even more businesses which can benefit from this kind of partnership, whether they're involved in knowledge-rich sectors such as energy or life sciences, or simply seeking fresh and innovative thinking to help them grow."
In a recent independent report, more than eight out of 10 companies said they would seek to work with Interface again. Of the companies asked, 90 per cent were very satisfied or satisfied with the support provided to help develop the relationship with their academic partner. Over eight out of 10 stated that they were likely to collaborate with Scottish higher education Institutions or research institutes in the future.
Interface helps companies operating across a range of sectors, from food and drink to financial services, offering huge benefits for both businesses and academia.
To find out more about Interface and the opportunities available, please visit www.interface-online.org.uk
The Interface Highlands and Islands Team can be contacted at Cowan House, Inverness Retail and Business Park, Inverness IV2 7GF.