Why our Scottish universities can go from strength to strength - Iain Stewart
As part of the UK, Scotland has firmly established itself at the cutting edge of innovation and academia with five of our universities featuring in the world’s top 250.
And I’m confident our rightly famous institutions will continue to go from strength to strength, thanks in no small part to huge levels of UK Government funding.
We are investing hundreds of millions of pounds – and there’s much more in the pipeline.
It feels as if barely a week goes by where I’m not being asked to welcome funding for exciting projects ranging from research to tackle Covid-19 to turning novel science innovations into a reality, such as developing new cancer treatments and new ways to recycle plastic and reduce waste.
Just this week UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has announced the Universities of Strathclyde, Stirling and Heriot-Watt are between them receiving more than £7.7 million for projects to tackle plastic waste.
For centuries our universities have been carrying out global leading research and developed some of the greatest minds ever seen.
The fruits of this work have brought us the Wealth of Nations and the science of geology and in more recent times the telephone, television, penicillin, developments in quantum physics - and Dolly the Sheep.
They have only been able to carry out such ground-breaking work by sharing funding and knowledge as part of the UK.
While we are rightly proud that our academic history stretches back hundreds of years, it is to the future that we look.
Continuing to push the boundaries in sectors such as life sciences, research and tech, and making lives better and boosting the economy.
I’m very proud to see our universities taking a leading role in the international effort to combat the Covid-19 virus.
Whether it’s researching vaccines, helping to understand more about how the virus works, training health professionals or donating equipment to hospitals, they are helping to make a real difference.
And there’s so much more to come.
Through our City Region and Growth Deals, we are investing more than £400m into Scottish universities to further tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems.
Of this, £290 million is for data driven innovation and robotics at Edinburgh and Heriot Watt universities.
This includes developing the National Robotarium - a world-leading centre for robotics and artificial intelligence to explore collaborative interaction between humans, robots and their environments at all levels.
The investment also supports five data-driven innovation hubs, which house expertise and facilities to help ten industrial sectors become more innovative through data.
And £22m is being invested to build a new Aquaculture Hub for Innovation and Scottish Environment Centre at Stirling University.
The hub will be unique in Scotland and the UK, and will operate four aquatic research facilities, which between them will provide the full range of marine environmental conditions.
The environment centre, which will provide an integrated approach to cutting-edge research, innovation, skills development, inclusion and sustainable growth that tackles global environmental challenges.
The UK Government is determined to support Scottish universities and the incredible talent they have and help keep them at the cutting edge.
Universities are a great example of two governments working together to support one of the country’s strengths.
The UK Government is also committed to investing in other areas of Scotland’s economy. For example, the UK Internal Market Bill will give us the opportunity to invest in sectors such as infrastructure.
By working in partnership with the devolved administration, local government, business and universities, we can unleash our economic potential, delivering a unique source of jobs, growth, and skills development, boosting the Scottish and UK economies.
Iain Stewart is the UK Government Minister for Scotland
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