Universities can help the economy recover



Professor Benny Higgins

The First Minister today announced the publication of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery Report, "Towards a robust, resilient and wellbeing economy for Scotland".

The 60-page report written by Benny Higgins, Group Chair and Special Advisor to the First Minister on the Scottish National Investment Bank, set out 25 recommendations for recovery.

The report was informed by a broad range of perspectives from universities, businesses and communities across Scotland. Heriot-Watt University today welcomed its publication and committed to directing its efforts to aiding Scotland’s economic recovery.

Dr Gillian Murray, Deputy Principal (Enterprise and Business), said: “We welcome the report’s focus on the value of universities as a systemically important sector that will form the basis of a stronger, better Scotland. We are ready to work together in collaboration with other organisations to build a sustainable, flexible economy that tackles inequalities and creates jobs.

“We are working hard on our own prospectus for recovery, outlining how the University can leverage its core expertise in research, business, teaching and talent development, to help in the huge effort needed. An education and innovation-led approach is essential to build the workforce and leaders of the future, who are fully prepared for the challenges of the post-Covid workplace.

"Today we are delighted to be playing our part in supporting the young people, mentioned in the report as those disadvantaged the most by the crisis, with the launch of our Future Made for Success programme. This new initiative offers industry-linked scholarships to postgraduate study, with virtual internships offering students the opportunity to work in partnership with business to solve critical business challenges, such as digital transformation and energy transition. The students are further supported with an enhanced careers programme and bespoke entrepreneurial training to enhance resilience."

New research on business trends

Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh Business School contributed a survey of businesses across Scotland identifying concerns and opportunities. The resulting research on current attitudes, concerns and opportunities arising from the pandemic, reinforces the role of academic expertise to help businesses give structured help to student and graduate population who will face greater challenge securing work.

Head of School of Social Sciences, Professor Robert MacIntosh and Executive Dean, Professor Heather McGregor worked in partnership with the Scottish Council for Development and Innovation to survey 206 organisations across Scotland.

The report summarising their findings, published today, identifies significant lasting impact of the pandemic on working practices, digital equality and skill requirements going forward and makes a range of recommendations. These include the need for increased connectivity between enterprise agencies and the use of academic research to foster rapid increased knowledge transfer as well as creative solutions to un-used office space.

Heriot-Watt Head of Social Sciences, Professor Robert MacIntosh said:

“The Advisory Group’s report makes clear the importance of the talent and expertise residing in our universities as we seek to provide structured support to public, private and charitable organisations in the months ahead. Working collaboratively across tertiary, further and higher education and working in close partnership with industry will be key.

“Our own Heriot-Watt survey found that Scotland’s experience of remote working in recent months has accelerated the digital transformation of almost every part of the economy.”

While developing the skills and talent that will support the future economy, the University aims to focus its world-leading research on the economic recovery. It is recognised for its expertise in digital technologies, social policy, the circular economy and energy transition, including its role in the formation of the UK’s Industrial Decarbonisation and Innovation Centre (IDRIC), making it well-placed to help the drive towards a connected, inclusive and greener recovery.

Fundamental to this approach is the acceleration of knowledge transfer and commercialisation, through ambitious initiatives and by harnessing global partnerships that bring benefit and add value to Scotland.

Dr Murray added: “Partnership working is key to the recovery and the public and private sector must work together. Our strategic partnerships across the key sectors provide a solid base for bold and ambitious future interventions that leverage existing assets to support skills, innovation and investment.

The full Edinburgh Business School report is available online.


Annie Pugh

e: a.pugh@hw.ac.uk