Waste wood innovation picks up national prize

A waste wood product which can improve water quality has been named as the ‘Innovation of the Year’ at the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards.

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Amelia Whitelaw, Director of Interface, Szabolcs Pap, Steve McQueen and Sean Kerr of Sustainable Thinking Scotland, Jerry Bretherton from HGF Ltd (sponsor of the category), and Laura Goodfellow of Interface at the awards event

Developed through a collaboration between researchers at UHI North Highland’s Environmental Research Institute and Sustainable Thinking Scotland CIC, the ‘biochar’ is produced by baking waste wood.

The product can be used to tackle harmful algal blooms in water caused by nutrient pollution and can also be reused on land as a slow-release fertiliser.

The project team behind the biochar received funding through the Scottish Funding Council’s innovation voucher scheme. Administered by Interface, the scheme encourages educational institutions to work with businesses to develop new products and services.

Members of the project team collected the award at the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards ceremony in Dundee on Thursday. The awards recognise excellence in partnerships between business and academia.

Speaking about the accolade, Szabolcs Pap, a water technologist at the Environmental Research Institute, said: “We are delighted that our pioneering work with Sustainable Thinking Scotland CIC has been recognised through the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Innovation of the Year award. It is especially gratifying as much of the work was conducted during challenging circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. This success reflects the strength of our working relationship and we are excited to build on this as we look towards the next steps in our collaboration.”

Sean Kerr, co-founder of the Bo’ness based organisation Sustainable Thinking Scotland CIC, added: “We are thrilled to receive this award and believe the project highlights the social and environmental benefits that can be derived from academic collaboration with social enterprise. The UHI team have been a pleasure to work with, helping to turn purpose driven ideas into a reality, and we look forward to working together to explore biochar’s potential further.”

This is the second year in a row that a UHI project has been recognised in the awards. The One Health Breakthrough Partnership, a collaboration between NHS Highland and the UHI North Highland’s Environmental Research Institute, won the ‘making an environmental difference’ category last year.

UHI Shetland was also shortlisted this year for the powerful partnership award for a project with the National Trust for Scotland for immersive multimedia events at Brodie Castle.

To find out more about research and knowledge exchange activity at UHI, visit www.uhi.ac.uk/research or email the knowledge exchange team at ke@uhi.ac.uk

To discover where Interface may be able to help your business, visit https://interface-online.org.uk