Delegates from five major construction companies in the United Arab Emirates visited the ground-breaking new GRID building at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh this week, immediately followed by a visit from Innovation and Trade Minister Ivan McKee MSP.
GRID, a locus for global research, innovation and discovery, is due to open in its doors on Heriot-Watt's Riccarton campus in autumn 2019. It has been designed to act as a catalyst for radical innovation and international collaboration, to better enable co-development of ideas and technology; accelerating time to market and giving Scottish companies a real potential edge.
Dr Gillian Murray, Deputy Principal (Enterprise and Business) said, “This is a hugely exciting time for Heriot-Watt University. We are investing over £50 million in new digital innovation initiatives, including £19 million pounds in GRID.
“We offer access to some of the best talent in the world, enabled by emerging technologies. In collaboration with key industry partners, we can create, curate and share new knowledge across sectors including manufacturing, health, energy and construction."
Innovation and Trade Minister, Ivan McKee, added, “It was great to visit Heriot-Watt University to see its brand new GRID building and meet some inspiring entrepreneurs.
“Scotland is known for its vision as a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation, one in which growth and innovation go hand-in-hand with fair work and delivering in a way which benefits everyone, so I look forward to seeing all that the GRID building can achieve.”
Earlier in the week, five leading construction companies based in UAE had travelled to Edinburgh, keen to review Scottish innovation in action. Representing Al Shafar General Contracting, Alec Construction, Turner Construction, Thornton Tomasetti and Jacobs Construction, the delegation was here to gather information about GRID, and Heriot-Watt University's development of a Centre of Excellence in Construction in Dubai.
Dr Gillian Murray said, “Heriot-Watt has had a campus in Dubai since 2005 and this delegation underlines both the strength of our relationships across UAE and the potential for collaboration, focused on driving economic growth.
“By Investing in ground-breaking initiatives like GRID, we are showing our determination to break down barriers, between regions and traditional ways of learning.
“Together we hope to identify collaborative, global research and innovation opportunities across key challenges facing the construction sector and to support Scottish companies to work together to develop products of the future.
“Scotland is a global leader in many sectors for which UAE has growing demand, and strengthening bi-lateral relations will make it easier for Scottish businesses to access UAE markets”.
Scotland already enjoys a healthy trade relationship with the Gulf States, sending over £1.8 billion in exports to the region each year, £1 billion of that to UAE. There are around 75 current investment projects led by Scottish businesses in the UAE, supporting an estimated 400 jobs.
Delegates had the chance to visit a further three Scottish Innovation Centres, at Construction Scotland, CENSIS and The Data Lab, during their tour, (from 17-21st March 2019) and enjoyed a networking dinner with key players from the construction industry.
The innovation mission, organised and hosted by Heriot-Watt University, was sponsored by the UAE-UK Business Council, and supported by Scottish Enterprise / Scottish Development International.