Scottish Research Partnership in Engineering conference celebrates alliance of universities and industry

Influential figures from research, industry and government gathered for the inaugural Scottish Research Partnership in Engineering (SRPe) annual conference at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.

The strategic partnership of ten Scottish universities, which works with industry and government to build on the nation’s engineering excellence, welcomed the Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy, Kate Forbes as keynote speaker at the University’s Technology and Innovation Centre.

The Chair of SRPe, Strathclyde Principal, Professor Sir Jim McDonald gave the conference opening address and other speakers across academia and industry included Professor Dame Anne Glover, President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Dr Hamid Mughal, Director of Global Manufacturing for Rolls-Royce.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald said:

We are delighted to be hosting the first SRPe annual conference, bringing together key stakeholders from academia, industry and government to showcase the range and impact of the world-class engineering research taking place at Scotland’s universities.

“Scotland has a proud pioneering tradition from the industrial revolution onwards and innovation across engineering and technology continues to be vital for the nation’s economic prosperity.

“The talented research community within SRPe are ensuring that the continued growth and quality of university engineering research here remains at the heart of the country’s present and future success.”

Collaboration & impact

The conference showcased the collaborative activities and their impacts across each of SRPe’s strategic themes of Advanced Manufacturing, Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Infrastructure and Environment and Engineering at the Life Sciences Interface.

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There were presentations and research exhibits from across the SRPe partner universities, who are Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier, Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian, Heriot-Watt, Robert Gordon, Strathclyde and the West of Scotland.

The Scottish Industry Directories portal, which offers a searchable database of 4,000 companies and organisations across sectors from aerospace to subsea engineering, was also launched at the conference.

The Minister met with SRPe’s industry-sponsored PhD students, who are part of the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) Manufacturing Skills Academy, along with their industry and academic supervisors.

NMIS is an industry-led international centre of manufacturing expertise which aims to make Scotland and the UK a global leader in advanced manufacturing based on an investment by the Scottish Government, industry and the Scottish universities.

SRPe is a key NMIS delivery partner and the PhD students are the first of 30 industry doctorate projects launched by the partnership under its NMIS Industry Doctorate Programme (NMIS-IDP).

The Minister learned about the students’ research projects, which aim to address key manufacturing challenges and opportunities spanning the aerospace, energy, marine, biomedical, food & drink, transport, defense, quantum, photonics and pharmaceutical sectors.

Kate Forbes said: “It was fantastic to attend the inaugural SRPe Conference, and to see the impressive breadth of engineering research and innovation happening in our Universities. I was particularly pleased to meet the NMIS Industry Doctorate students, whose research projects demonstrate Scotland’s potential to be a global leader in engineering and manufacturing technology.

 “Scotland has a rich manufacturing and engineering heritage, and we want to build on that to ensure Scotland is a producer and inventor of goods, not just a consumer. 

“The work of SRPe, including its role in supporting NMIS reach across Scotland, is vital in encouraging such innovation in Scottish engineering.‎ We are hugely supportive of this type of collaboration between the public sector, industry and academia that SRPe exemplifies.”

Critical role

SRPe’s programmes supporting European research collaboration-building and postgraduate and early career researcher development were also featured, along with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council funded Inclusion Matters projects on equality, diversity and inclusion underway in Scotland.

SRPe’s Executive Director, Dr Caroline Cantley, said: “Engineering research and innovation will continue to play a critical role in shaping our nation’s future success, particularly as we enter the digital era.

“The SRPe universities relish the exciting opportunities ahead and will continue to work in close collaboration with industry and government to build upon Scotland’s research excellence, to enhance our international competitiveness and address key skills gaps in engineering and related sectors.”

SRPe was established by the Scottish Funding Council, and it is funded by them, with match funding from the partner universities.

 The partnership was established to maximise the impact from University-led engineering research across Scotland. It allows universities to collaborate at a pan-Scottish level and to pool their expertise and resources to build upon Scotland's research excellence and international competitiveness.

It works closely with industry and government at a strategic level to cement Scotland's position as a world-class centre of research excellence and globally competitive driving force in engineering.