The Interface Service
Interface was established in 2005 as a central hub to connect businesses from a wide variety of national and international industries to Scotland's 24 higher education and research institutes to promote innovative business and academic collaborations through translating the needs of companies of all sizes, and from all sectors. Interface have 23 members of staff, Scotland wide. A core part of the rationale for establishing the organisation was to create a mechanism to enable SMEs, particularly micro and small enterprises, to engage with the academic base in Scotland.
Interface continues to play a key role by introducing businesses, many of which have not previously engaged with Higher Education (HE) or do not have significant R&D in-house, to the expertise universities possess. Through its focus on small and micro enterprises, it helps fill an important gap in Scotland’s current knowledge exchange landscape by helping to make engagement between SMEs and academia more effective and efficient.
Our university works with Interface as a national connection to Scottish SME's and entrepreneurs.
The process also works in the opposite direction - if an researcher has an idea they would like to find a commercial partner for, they can initiate a collaboration search which can go out to either the university contact database or the business database. Interface are finding twitter a good platform for informal introductions and searches - they currently have over 2800 followers, a useful initial contact network. Their activities include: a database of research and technology capabilities, contract research and collaborations, specialist expertise database, access to equipment and facilities, consultancy, industrial student placements, training, support and development, strategy, marketing & planning support, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, Innovation Vouchers.
All Interface liaison is currently taken care of by Anna.Paaso@uhi.ac.uk of the Knowledge Exchange team.
Interface administers, on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council’s (SFC), Innovation Voucher and Follow-On Schemes which supports businesses to collaborate with academic partners. Since the launch of the Innovation Voucher Scheme in 2009 Interface has administered over 600 vouchers to the sum of £2.9 million. They also now administer the H2020 SME Engagement scheme. Details of all on the Innovation funding page.
Promoting Technology and Facilities
Through the 24 Higher Education and Research Institution partners, Interface can help identify and link businesses and academics to the most relevant and suitable equipment, facilities and technologies across Scotland. From off-the-shelf intellectual property (IP), IP which already exists that can be utilised by business at little or no charge, to high specification laboratories and cutting edge equipment such as industrial 3D printers, Interface’s long established relationships with their partners give businesses a cost effective route to the tools, knowledge and experience that they need.
Interface-UHI Case Studies
Mara Seaweed:Funding supports sustainable seaweed growth. Mara Seaweed has received a range of grants from £5,000 to almost £400,000 in less than 5 years to become the UK’s leading culinary seaweed provider.
Albyn Housing Society: Albyn Housing Society wanted to investigate the feasibility of offering Assisted Living Services to their vulnerable residents through the use of Assisted Living Technologies as part of their suite of services.
Quality Scotland: Keen to develop an e-learning tool to take their quality management service to rural communities, Quality Scotland asked Interface to source key expertise from Scotland's universities. Interface connected the company with industry leaders North Highland College who have developed with them new materials perfectly suited to their new target market.