In years to come, last month’s official opening of Inverness Campus by the Deputy First Minister John Swinney will be seen as a transformational moment for the Highland capital and the wider region.
The £100 million campus, with spectacular views north over the Moray Firth, is expected to be one of the main drivers of economic growth in the area, inspiring and attracting businesses, particularly those involved in life sciences.
More importantly, it will go some way towards encouraging people to stay in the region by generating an estimated 1,300 jobs on site and a further 940 across the Highlands and Islands over the next five years.
Inverness Campus is an ambitious project, earmarked by Government as one of Scotland’s key priorities for inward investment and with parts of the 215-acre site designated as an enterprise zone for life sciences. The opening of the campus is the culmination of seven years of planning led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in conjunction with a range of partnership organisations including the University of Highlands and Islands, Inverness College and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), all of which are relocating to the campus.
Ruaraidh MacNeil, the HIE project director for Inverness Campus, says that now the site is open the focus is on supporting the development of the businesses of existing partners and attracting new business to the region from around the world. “We’re fortunate that we can do this at the campus from a position of strength, especially in life sciences,” he says.
“For instance, SRUC is a UK leader in agriculture and veterinary research and we also have Scotland’s largest medical device company, LifeScan Scotland – a Johnson & Johnson company – based here. These organisations are leaders in their respective fields, they have a strong research ethos and are ambitious. Above all, they are collaborative, forming a cluster of energetic life-science players who are keen to work with us to develop new business opportunities for the city and the region.”
HIE is particularly keen to establish a strong research and development presence on the campus by engaging with companies involved in digital health technology and natural products right across the spectrum – from small start-ups and local businesses to global companies. James Cameron, head of life sciences at HIE, says they are already working with early-stage businesses to accelerate growth to the proof-of-concept stage.
“Our first Pathfinder scheme for individuals and early-stage university spinouts has been hugely successful,” he says, “and we’re about to recruit for a second one in September. Another initiative rooted in the campus is Smarter Communities, which is about creating opportunities for SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] to work with the NHS Research Development and Innovation team to develop innovative technologies in the health sector to deliver services to remote rural communities.”
HIE has been working closely, for instance, with Forres-based Tactical Wireless on satellite ultrasound for a rural stroke project which uses imaging technology to provide remote diagnoses, and also engaging with clinicians to treat and monitor the foot ulceration of diabetics.
Mr Cameron says that countries such as Japan and Russia have already expressed an interest in what is happening in Inverness and the wider Highlands and Islands. “It’s initiatives like this that will become a major strength when it comes to exporting the technology,” he says. “We also hope these types of projects will catch the eye of global companies and encourage them to establish a research and development presence here.”
These are sentiments echoed by Ruaraidh MacNeil, who adds that as a premier UK location, Inverness Campus has a lot to offer. “We believe the campus is an extremely attractive and powerful proposition for global companies looking to expand their businesses,” he says.
“Inverness is a fast-growing region with good connections nationally and internationally, a new and growing university, a ready supply of skilled and educated workers and an unrivalled business support infrastructure. It really is an inspirational place to live, work and play.”
- For more on Inverness Campus, visit www.invernesscampus.co.uk