They’re in it for the long term

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Universities and industry have had to find new ways not only to start collaborations but to allow those relationships to develop as they grow and flourish

by Barry McDonald

Innovation has become more than just a buzz word – it is increasingly important today to both industry and academia alike who are under ever increasing pressure to maximise outputs from both resources and time.

These two groups with seemingly different goals and interests, when joined together can become a powerful force for innovation. Universities provide major resources for those companies pursuing an innovation strategy and, in turn, companies can help to deliver the impact from university research which is a critical output for academics.

Ian Sharp is Commercial Relations Manager at Edinburgh Research & Innovation (ERI). He believes academic/ industry collaboration is of critical importance in ensuring that UK industry retains a national competitive advantage. “Many of our industry partners have benefited significantly through working closely with University of Edinburgh and ERI,” he said.

Fast forward to today and the focus is now shifting away from single, short term interactions towards valuable long term strategic relationships. Universities and industry have had to find new ways to not only start collaborations, but to allow them to flourish in order to benefit from long term advantage instead of short-term financial results.

ERI’s Commercial Relations team works collaboratively with companies to harness value for both sides, ensuring that companies have efficient and productive access to the University’s academic excellence to drive results. They are at the vital first step of these relationships and help to nurture the developing relationships as they grow and flourish.

Building on success

Remo Pedreschi, Professor of Architectural Technology and his team at the University of Edinburgh’s College of Art have enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership with Glasgow-based Martec Engineering Group Ltd. Stretching back over ten years, the relationship has led to the launch of successful product lines, valuable funding and advancing research.

The first contact was initiated when Remo and his team were exploring the possible application in the construction sector of a technique known as mechanical clinching. “Scottish Enterprise provided funding for a proof of concept project and suggested that Martec come and see what we were doing,” he said. “What struck me from the start was company director Martin McHugh’s interest in new ideas.”

The company also produced secure entry systems to upgrade social housing projects. A decision was made to focus on this system, its design and production. Funding for a two-year project was subsequently approved under the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme. More recently, discussion began about developing a follow-on to the previous project.

“This time around there would be a much broader scope, with the aim of discovering the best area for Martec to focus on within the whole field of security in buildings.

“Once again, we have been successful in securing funding through the KTP scheme,” said Remo. “We won’t be limited to social housing. Instead, we’ll ask if there is a market in schools or private residential apartments, and explore the requirements in those areas. It’s interesting and very useful for us at the university to be looking at it strategically, as well as at the opportunities available with new fabrication and design technologies.”

Martin McHugh added: “For this project it was imperative we brought someone in who had some architectural knowledge and experience, and was keen to help us develop new products.

“We wanted to work with Remo and his team again as we have such a good relationship.”

To take the first step to starting your company’s long-term partnership with the University of Edinburgh, contact ERI: industry.engagement@ed.ac.uk