Industrial strategy an opportunity for Heriot-Watt to lead on ‘grand challenges'



The UK government’s industrial strategy white paper recognises universities’ positions as key drivers for local growth, enhanced national productivity and reflects the challenge-led strategy that Heriot-Watt University has been focused on, according to university leaders.

The industrial strategy sets out a long-term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK, and heralds the biggest increase in research and development funding in history.

Four ‘grand’ challenges are set out in the paper: artificial intelligence, clean growth, mobility and an ageing society. Heriot-Watt is already leading in these areas around the world, with outstanding research teams working to develop solutions through innovation and partnerships.

Professor Gareth Pender, Deputy Principal Research and Innovation, said: “The UK Government identified its four grand challenges as being the industries of the future, and where we should be placing our focus.

“On reading the white paper, I was extremely proud to note that the UK Government’s recommendations reflect the ethos and strategy of Heriot-Watt.

“As a university, we are already conducting high-impact research in each of these ‘grand challenges’, which shows the foresight of our academic body, as well as our research and enterprise teams.

“Our reputation in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence is unparalleled. We have been selected to host the UK’s National Robotarium, continue to break barriers in robotics research and are raising our profile globally with success in events like the Amazon Alexa Challenge.

“In terms of clean growth, we have a long and historic association with energy. We continue to work with industry partners to develop technical solutions that will make the most of our resources and ensure the commercial viability of renewable energy projects ranging from sensors that detect when offshore windfarms might fail to 3D carbon capture modelling.

“We are a leader in logistics, sustainable freight and civil engineering, all of which come under the mobility umbrella and we have specialist centres within the university that are working with clinicians to detect and treat the conditions and diseases that affect ageing populations, from osteoporosis to Alzheimer’s.”

The industrial strategy’s priority is to increase the productivity of the UK. The white paper identifies five ‘foundations’ upon which productivity relies: ideas, making the UK the world’s most innovative economy; people, meaning good jobs and greater earning power; infrastructure; the business environment, which should make the UK the best place to start and grow a business and places, meaning the creation of prosperous communities across the UK.

Heriot-Watt University was established with many of the five foundations in mind and is committed to creating business ecosystems around its global campuses, helping the people and communities there to fully develop their potential.

From pioneering online education at the Edinburgh Business School, to transforming how a global university operates, Heriot-Watt University has constantly adapted to meet the wide range of educational demands of young school leavers up to senior workforce leaders.

Innovation sits at the heart of the industry strategy and as a nation of innovators, it is essential to effectively exploit investment in research. The University works with partners around the world to turn problems on their head and contribute to major industries.

Dr Gillian Murray, Deputy Principal Enterprise and Business, said: “The industrial strategy is a fantastic opportunity for Heriot-Watt, as we already have a strong heritage of working closely with industry to drive economic growth and prosperity.

“Forming new partnerships to build on this success will be key to maximising the potential opportunities offered by the industrial strategy in the future.

“Our new Discovery and Innovation Centre, due to open in 2019, is an exemplar of future integrated approaches to teaching, learning, innovation and collaboration; providing inspirational and exciting spaces where students, staff, academics and the wider community will be able to explore, collaborate, create, test, and solve real-world problems faster than ever.”