Underlining that there is life (and trade) beyond Brexit, a delegation from UAE is arriving in Edinburgh this Sunday to spend several days exploring opportunities for further collaboration with innovation specialists at Heriot-Watt University.
Heriot-Watt University has deep roots in Dubai through its campus which has been in the region since 2005, and the prestigious delegation of representatives from five construction companies is keen to find out more about the University's new Global Research, Innovation and Discovery building (known as the GRID), due to open in Edinburgh in autumn 2019.
Dr Gillian Murray, Deputy Principal (Enterprise and Business) at Heriot-Watt University said, “Heriot-Watt is investing over £50 million in new digital innovation initiatives. Our first investment in GRID will act as a catalyst for radical innovation and international collaboration.
“The GRID provides a focus for companies to innovate and to access talent globally, and provides Scotland with genuine advantage as a leader in the innovation space.”
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 also around 75 current investment projects led by Scottish businesses in the UAE, representing almost £70 million of capital investment and supporting an estimated 400 jobs.
Mixed-use real estate projects and residential developments form the largest part of this activity and it is intended that this week's visit will also strengthen relationships around Heriot-Watt University's Centre of Excellence in Construction, on its Dubai campus.
Dr Gillian Murray adds, “Together we hope to identify collaborative, global research and innovation opportunities across key challenges facing the construction sector and 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.
“However it is our investment in digital infrastructure through our £19 million pounds investment in the GRID that will enable co-development and accelerate time to market, enabling Scottish companies to seize the opportunities. This philosophy underlines our commitment to using technology to break down barriers, between regions, traditional ways of learning and the sharing of information. Our purpose is to position Scotland at the very forefront of global innovation.”
The visiting delegates are from five leading companies, most of them with stakes in both the UAE and the UK: Al Shafar General Contracting, Alec Construction, Turner Construction, Thornton Tomasetti and Jacobs Construction.
Delegates will also tour a further three Scottish Innovation Centres, at Construction Scotland, CENSIS and The Data Lab, in a tour lasting four days, from 17-21st March. The trade mission, organised and hosted by Heriot-Watt University, is sponsored by the UAE-UK Business Council, and supported by Scottish Enterprise / Scottish Development International.