Business and academia come together to tackle environmental challenges - Louise Arnold
It’s now less than a year until COP26, the UN climate change conference that will take place in Glasgow in 2021.
To be held in the UK for the first time, the climate talks will be the biggest international summit Scotland has ever hosted, bringing together over 30,000 delegates including heads of state, climate experts and campaigners to agree coordinated action to tackle climate change.
Interface has connected many businesses with academics from across Scotland’s Universities and Colleges, to support collaborations that have a positive impact on environmental sustainability– in fact, between August and November of this year alone, 68% of projects brokered by Interface were helping businesses address challenges relating to combating climate change and promoting sustainable practices.
Interface’s recent webinar on the circular economy and climate change brought together academic and business experts to offer ideas and inspiration in developing green solutions. One speaker with first-hand experience of academic collaboration was Michael Forbes, Refurbishment Manager at Renewable Parts Ltd., which refurbishes wind turbines. He made the observation that “there are very small companies doing really great things.”
The majority of companies Interface work with are small and medium sized and have proven that small is powerful when it comes to the planet’s biggest issues, including meeting the Scottish Government’s target of net zero carbon emissions by 2045.
One example of an innovative green business is Recircle Group Ltd. The Edinburgh-based company has developed a world-first technology that allows rubber to be recycled into high-quality applications instead of being burned or going to waste. Interface helped connect Professor Nick Christofi, Chief Scientific Officer at Recircle, with Professor David Bucknall, Chair in Materials Chemistry at Heriot-Watt University. Together, they applied to Innovate UK for Knowledge Transfer Partnership funding and were awarded £125,000 to fund a two-year project with a post-graduate associate employed to develop rapid testing methods for assessing polymer surfaces. This partnership will lead to growth for the business in terms of the wider range of materials they can process and a global expansion of the customer base.
Another company supported by Interface, which has been making headlines for its rapid crowdfunding campaign, is Pawprint. The eco tech start-up is combining technology, behavioural science and carbon data in one app so users can measure, understand and reduce their own carbon footprints, or pawprints.
Interface helped the team access support from Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society (SAGES Research Pool) to place a researcher with the company for 10 days to analyse the most effective way to encourage meaningful, long term changes in people’s behaviour with access to a live community of test users.
These are just two case studies which show how Interface works closely with established companies and start-ups across Scotland, tapping into different funding models to enable business-academic partnerships to carry out research and development.
With team members located across the country, we are supporting companies in all regions, establishing what challenges they are seeking to solve and identifying relevant academic expertise. Having people “on the ground” in this way means that we can build strong relationships with the companies and support them with the right opportunities with universities and colleges, whether it’s partnering with students, researchers or professors, or accessing specialist facilities.
The business benefits from tapping into world-class academic expertise include product development, improved processes and more streamlined services. For the universities, industry engagement supports teaching and increased knowledge to power new areas of research.
Scottish companies have been innovating to tackle climate change in many different ways, with Interface proud to be part of finding workable solutions. With worldwide attention on Scotland during COP26, we will be sharing our stories of how Scotland is coming together to tackle environmental challenges.
Louise Arnold, Business Engagement Executive, Interface
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