Heriot-Watt top in Knowledge Exchange Awards



L-R: Lucy Bryden, Matthew Pauley, Dr Annie Hill, Prof. Eddie Owens, Dr Maizura Mokhtar, Dr Valentin Robu, Caroline Loughran from SPEN, Prof. David Lane, Dr Grant Sellar, Dr Iain McEwan, Dr Alicia Greated and Robert Goodfellow.

The people and partnerships at the heart of the most ground-breaking, potentially life-changing innovations, developed by businesses and academics, have been unveiled at the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 2019.

Heriot-Watt University came out top, taking four of the seven awards.

These include a smart irrigation system aiming to revolutionise small-holder farming in developing countries by dramatically reducing the amount of water and energy used by 70%, increasing crop yield by 30% and reducing labour by 10%.

Organised by Interface, the awards recognise, reward and celebrate impacts achieved through collaborative business and academic partnerships.

Ivan McKee, MSP, Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, presented the awards in Edinburgh last night (21 February).

“It is hugely promising to see such forward thinking and successful partnerships between Scottish companies and academia.

“These partnerships will help to drive a thriving and dynamic innovation ecosystem that is essential for improved productivity, competitiveness and growth. The Scottish Government increased the grant for university research and innovation via the Scottish Funding Council by 6.4% to £296 million for 2018-19, with the aim to strengthen Scotland's status as a key player in research, innovation and technology and to encourage more of these important partnerships.

"I want to congratulate all of the winners for their collaborative efforts. I hope this will inspire further innovative partnerships in the future."

This is an outstanding achievement in these prestigious awards which celebrate the importance of working in partnership and forging close links with business.

Dr Gillian Murray, Heriot-Watt University's Deputy Principal for Business and Enterprise, said: “This is an outstanding achievement in these prestigious awards which celebrate the importance of working in partnership and forging close links with business.

“At Heriot-Watt we take great pride in our heritage of collaboration with business, and this continues to be core to our strategy moving forward. It's fantastic to see such great success around transformational change and very well-deserved by everyone involved including our Business Development team.”

The judging panels were made up of representatives from; Scottish Funding Council, Entrepreneurial Scotland, College Development Network, Zero Waste Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Government, Knowledge Transfer Network and the Interface Strategic Board.

The awards partners were Marks & Clerk, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Business Insider.

The Heriot-Watt winners are:

Knowledge Exchange Champion of the Year

Professor David Lane, Heriot-Watt University, is an international scientist, engineer, innovator and investor in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. In his 35-year career David has established Heriot-Watt's Ocean Systems Laboratory with an international reputation in marine robotics, publishing nearly 300 top-cited publications and co-ordinating major EU/EPSRC/MoD projects. David has led the development of the UK's Robotics2020 strategy resulting in over £550m investment including founding the £100m Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, a joint venture between Heriot-Watt and University of Edinburgh.

Making a Difference

Scene Connect Ltd, Edinburgh, and Heriot-Watt University's School of Energy, Geoscience Infrastructure and Society and Institute for Infrastructure and Environment, for creating a new software-hardware system, called Water-Hand, for farmers in India to control the volumes of water given to crops through irrigation schedules, with “staggering results” – a 70% reduction in water and energy usage, 30% crop yield increase and 10% labour decrease.

The system combines localised weather forecasting and electricity availability with a sophisticated modelling technique to calculate precise water needs for crops based on type, location and soil. 

Multiparty Collaboration

Heriot-Watt University's International Centre for Brewing & Distilling with the Scottish Distillers Association and five distilleries has developed a unique library of over 40 botanicals grown in Scotland for distillers to create new gins and botanical liqueurs and support export activity.

The library is used to ensure Scottish gin meets import standards of countries like the USA. With 70% of the UK's gin produced in Scotland, and sales expected to hit £1.5billion by 2020, the library is good news for producers who are eyeing the domestic and international markets.

Rising Star of the Year

Dr Maizura Mokhtar, Knowledge Transfer Partnership Associate (KTP) from Heriot-Watt University, undertook a collaborative project with Scottish Power Energy Networks to analyse the large amount of data available from nationwide smart meters and transform it into meaningful information to inform important network planning and operational decisions. Dr Mokhtar delivered several projects as part of the KTP, from applying new techniques to predict energy consumption, to rolling out a new system platform and presenting outcomes to the company. Her work has been presented at two major international energy meetings.