Higher education research in an independent Scotland

Our vision for the future of university research in an independent Scotland.


Research excellence is underpinned by extensive collaborations across the globe - with independence we will maintain effective existing collaborations while extending our global reach with new networks and partnerships

30. The best research operates across boundaries be they disciplinary, institutional or nation state. Scotland's universities are highly internationalised and have vast networks of academic and professional connections around the globe. Our universities collaborate across Scotland, the UK, Europe and internationally. With independence we will continue to participate in existing collaborations that work well while seeking to extend our global reach as an independent country.

Collaboration with the UK

31. Independence provides the ability for Scotland to take decisions in Scotland's best interests. Scotland is currently a member of six unions [22] and is seeking to become independent from only one - the political and economic union - in order that decisions about Scotland's future are taken by the people who live and work in Scotland. At the same time we would look to use the powers of independence to recast these unions and make them work more effectively for Scotland.

32. We recognise the benefits - for the academic community, business and research charities - of maintaining long-term stability in research funding and systems that support initiatives of scale and researchers working together across boundaries enabling the UK to benefit from Scottish academic expertise and vice versa. We therefore see it as in the interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK - who benefit from access to Scottish academic expertise, facilities and research excellence - to maintain a common research area including shared Research Councils, access to facilities and peer review.

33. The Research Councils system works well enabling, as it does, world-class researchers from across the UK to collaborate to the benefit of all across a wide range of disciplines without the prospect of collaborative projects having to be peer reviewed twice in different jurisdictions and to be successful in both to be funded.

A consortium of Scottish universities and NHS National Services Scotland has won over £10 million from a £39 million initiative to create a UK-wide health informatics research institute, to be known as the Farr Institute. The funding was awarded by a consortium of UK Research Councils, charity and government funders, led by the Medical Research Council. Scotland will host one of the four nodes of the Institute, and will also lead the UK-wide network. Scotland has long been a leader in the use of routinely collected health data for research and this new investment will help to keep us at the international cutting edge.

The Theory and Practice of Social Machines (SOCIAM), is an ESRC funded collaboration between the University of Southampton, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Oxford. The core objective of SOCIAM is to establish the research, methods, tools, networks and collaborations to allow the understanding of social machines, in order that they can be designed and deployed by the full range of potential beneficiaries. The research is complex, as the 'components' of the social machine are both human and technological; the incentives for participation vary widely from personal gain to reciprocity to social responsibility to altruism, while problem identification and solution design are both radically decentralised.

34. As well as benefiting universities, continued operation as a common research area would be welcomed by businesses and charities across the UK, facilitating continued collaborative projects with a range of institutions from across the UK. However, in all circumstances we will guarantee no adverse funding impact from Scotland's transition to independence and indeed believe that independence will bring opportunities for increased research funding through collaborations with the private sector and with partners in Europe and beyond.

35. In the same way that we see it as clearly in the interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK to maintain a common research area, including shared Research Councils, we would view it as being in the interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK to maintain our close working relationship with the UK Technology Strategy Board. The Technology Strategy Board ( TSB) provides funding for innovation and its wide range of programmes and competitions are open to applicants from across the UK.

36. Under the current structure, Scotland's ability to contribute to the policy direction of the TSB is limited, which means that it may not always be in line with Scottish industrial or research strengths. Therefore, where there is a joint interest in priorities between Scotland and the rest of the UK - and it is to the mutual benefit of both countries - an independent Scotland could seek to continue to work with the TSB to deliver on shared objectives. Where priorities diverge, under independence future Scottish Governments would have the opportunity to develop policy approaches which address specific needs.

Collaboration within Europe

37. While the rest of the UK will remain an important research partner, we also want to extend our global reach using the opportunities independence provides to better promote Scotland overseas and engage in national and international fora building collaborations with other countries as a sovereign state. Scotland can already point to significant successes in working across European boundaries with international research centres increasingly attracted to Scotland by the quality of our research base including the Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics - the first Fraunhofer Institute to be located in the UK; the European Lead Factory, a pan-European platform for drug discovery supported by the Innovative Medicines Initiative; and the first Max Planck International Partnership in the UK.

The Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics, Europe's largest contract research organisation has chosen Glasgow as the destination for the organisation's first centre in the UK. Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is creating a hub for laser research and technology in a strategic collaboration with the University of Strathclyde. The hub will be based in the University's Technology and Innovation Centre, which is due to open in 2014 and will cover a variety of sectors including security, healthcare, energy and transport. The photonics centre is being funded by Fraunhofer, the University of Strathclyde, the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Funding Council.

BioCity Scotland is one of just three facilities in Europe capable of handling large compound collections. Its Automated Compound Store can store millions of samples in a highly controlled environment. Each sample can be individually retrieved by robots and delivered to research laboratories for High Throughput Screening (HTS), which provides an ideal test bed for new innovations in drug discovery. This helped BioCity Scotland, the University of Dundee and the Scottish Universities Life Science Alliance ( SULSA) to join forces with Dutch and English Partners and win the £100 million Innovative Medicines Initiative ( IMI) European Lead Factory Programme which will speed up the development of new drugs. The project will provide a base for 30 senior scientists working on drug compound screening.

38. We want to build on and further extend these kinds of partnerships with independence enabling Scotland to be more fully involved in the development of European research policy as an independent member state. We are following with interest progress in the further development of the European Research Area with its focus on strengthening transnational co-operation and enabling researchers and scientific knowledge to circulate freely to enhance Europe's global competitiveness. We support the European Commission in its ambition of 'a reinforced European research area partnership for excellence and growth' [23] with researchers, research institutions and businesses moving, competing and co-operating across borders more intensively.

39. These ambitions are reflected in Horizon 2020, the EU's new programme for research and innovation. Running from 2014-20 with a budget of just under €80 billion - including some €24 billion to support top-level research - Horizon 2020 offers a significant opportunity for Scotland's universities to further extend their global reach. Scotland has been an active player in the preceding research framework programmes - securing €636 million from the Framework Programme 7 ( FP7) [24] which ran from 2007-13, equating to 10.4% of the UK total and 1.6% of the EU total over the period - but the combination of research and innovation budgets into a combined programme offers particular opportunities for Scotland, with our strong track record in research and innovation, to access new and larger sources of research revenue.

Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness. Running from 2014-20 the EU's new programme for research and innovation is part of the drive to create new growth and jobs in Europe.

Horizon 2020 provides a major simplification of the funding landscape through a single set of rules and combining into a single pot the research and innovation funding currently provided through the Framework Programme for Research and Technical Development, the innovation related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme ( CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

40. A programme to promote our support and ambitions for participating in Horizon 2020 throughout Scotland is underway. For example, the Scottish European Research and Innovation Steering Group has worked across key public sector agencies (including the enterprise agencies, Scotland Europa and the Scottish Funding Council) and with other stakeholders to prepare and deliver an awareness-raising programme. It is also working to ensure that support for innovation that is available through other EU programmes, such as through European Structural and Investment Funds, builds upon, rather than cuts across, our research and innovation ambitions for Scotland.

41. It also offers the small and medium sized enterprise ( SME) community in Scotland a huge opportunity to secure research and development funding and participate in European projects. Participation in FP7 by Scottish SMEs represented some 17% of participations, and exceeded the participation target of 15% set by the European Commission for SMEs engagement within FP7's Cooperation sub-programme. Under the revised Horizon 2020 arrangements, we are seeking to increase SME participation and funding even further.

As part of its contribution to supporting the Scottish Research and Innovation Steering Group, the Scottish Funding Council recently extended the Innovation Voucher scheme with £400,000 of funding available to help a minimum of 80 Scottish small to medium enterprises ( SMEs) break into the European research market. The Horizon 2020 SME Engagement Scheme intends to support SMEs to explore Horizon 2020 European research funding opportunities with the assistance of Scottish universities. The voucher scheme provides up to £5,000 of support for each project and is based on the Innovation Voucher Scheme run through Interface, which has already helped hundreds of Scottish SMEs access Scottish universities' research and academic expertise to develop new products, processes, and services. Under the new scheme, each SMEs' proposed programme of activity should lead to an increase in the number of applications for Horizon 2020 funding that will benefit the business and the Scottish economy.

"I am delighted to welcome the launch of the Horizon 2020 SME Engagement Scheme, administered by the team at Interface, which will provide Scottish business and university partnerships the opportunity to explore cross collaboration through competitive European funding calls."

Professor Peter Downes, Principal, University of Dundee, 19 September 2013 [25]

42. Scotland is also reaching out to partners across Europe, joining in June 2013, the EU's Smart Specialisation Platform which will allow us to showcase Scottish research and innovation strengths and provide potential for new collaborators in research and innovation programmes from across the regions and institutes of the EU.

43. Our active engagement with partners within the European Union, enhanced by our position as an independent nation and full member state, will be complemented by continuing to develop and extend collaborations with our Nordic and Baltic neighbours outside the EU, building on existing research activity in areas of common interest. For example, there are existing embryonic collaborations between research groups in Norwegian and Scottish universities on the topic of water waves - including internal waves and surface waves. This includes The Norway-Scotland Waves Symposium organised under the auspices of an agreement signed in 2005 between the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (DNVA) and the Royal Society of Edinburgh ( RSE) to promote increased collaboration between the two national academies and the research communities in their respective countries. The 3rd Norway-Scotland DNVA- RSE waves symposium took place on 16 September 2013 and a 4th symposium is planned in Scotland in 2015 to review collaborative research progress in the intervening period and to enhance sustainable collaborations in future years.

44. We are keen for Scotland to develop these links and will investigate further the opportunities for collaboration. A current priority for the Scottish Government is to promote innovation cooperation around Horizon 2020 through fostering and developing policy and university level partnerships and we will be encouraging Scottish bodies to work with Nordic and Baltic colleagues to develop valuable collaborative projects. In this context we will look closely at the example of NordForsk, an organisation under the Nordic Council of Ministers that supports Nordic research cooperation through funding, advice and input to inform Nordic research policy. With a membership comprising Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, Nordforsk facilitates collaboration within all fields of research building on existing national priorities in the individual Nordic countries.

Global Collaboration

45. While we will continue to be an active player in Europe, a truly international higher education sector is fundamental to our ambitions for an independent Scotland. Internationalisation of higher education can bring a variety of benefits not only to our universities but to our students, businesses and society more generally. Our universities already have a very strong record of attracting students from around the world to study here. In 2012/13, 20% of students studying in Scotland were from outwith the UK, including 28,300 international students from outwith the EU [26] . This internationalisation is further reflected in the academic staff body - in 2011/12, 15% of academic staff were from an EU member state other than the UK and a further 13% of academic staff in Scotland were of non- EU nationality [27] .

46. In that context we remain extremely concerned about the damaging impact that UK Government immigration policies, including changes to student visa rules, are having on our universities hindering their ability to attract and retain talented researchers. Independence would allow us to better support a thriving internationally connected and competitive university sector through the removal of damaging immigration restrictions and development of an immigration policy that encourages and attracts talent from around the world (see Chapter 4).

47. Our universities are already active players on the world stage extending their world-class teaching offering and forming partnerships and collaborations across the globe. For example, in October 2011, the First Minister opened Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus, catering for around 2,500 students on programmes in management, built environment, engineering and textiles and are now looking to further extend their global reach through a new campus in Malaysia and developing a truly global network of 50 international academic learning partners in 30 countries. Elsewhere, the University of Glasgow and the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC) successfully bid to the Chinese Ministry of Education for a Joint Educational Programme (JEP).

48. Similarly, Scottish universities are actively pursuing research collaborations with countries across the world.

The Universities of Strathclyde, St Andrews, Heriot-Watt and Glasgow, together with Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), are collaborating with local industry to build enduring relationships which form the basis of a network which helps to sustain the economic impact of photonics in both the UK and California. The project, known as SU2P, capitalises on leading research in the photonics sector, in fields including life sciences and renewable energy, and the commercial opportunities the research offers. It also bolsters existing links between universities and businesses in Scotland and the US, gives talented young researchers the opportunity to experience working in laboratories in California and enables businesses in the US and Scotland to share ideas and expertise with academics in both countries.

The European Virtual Institute for Malaria Research (EVIMalaR) is a joint research Network of Excellence, funded by the European Commission and currently involving 62 partners from 51 institutes in Europe, Africa, India and Australia. Coordinated from the University of Glasgow, EviMalaR seeks to integrate malaria research that is directed towards a better understanding of the basic knowledge of the parasite, its vector and of the biology of the interactions between the parasite and both its mammalian host and vectors. The goal is to contribute to efforts to reduce the burden of malaria disease. According to figures released by WHO there were some 219 million cases of malaria in 2010 with an estimated 660,000 deaths from the disease - 90% of those in Africa.

49. Scottish universities are also increasingly collaborating together to harness global opportunities and to promote the Scottish brand. For example, recent trade missions to Hong Kong and Indonesia organised in conjunction with Scottish Development International, the British Council and Universities Scotland, have had a focus on the opportunities offered by the excellence of the Research Pools and the high quality of education available from the higher education sector within Scotland.

50. This is an exceptionally strong starting position and shows clearly the contribution Scotland makes internationally. Yet, a recent report by the British Council Scotland [28] highlighted that, while Scottish higher education has many distinctive assets, these assets and differences from the rest of the UK are not always fully recognised overseas.

51. The internationalisation of our higher education sector and promotion of Scotland as the educational and research destination of choice would remain a priority in an independent Scotland but with independence we would be better-placed to assert the Scottish brand on the world stage and secure a competitive edge in attracting talented academics to Scotland. As an independent nation state, Scotland will be in a stronger position to promote Scottish higher education overseas through a dedicated overseas diplomatic and trade network. This network will further enhance Scotland's visibility on the international stage, support Scottish universities and specialist institutions in promoting Scotland, its education and research expertise overseas and will assist in building long-term collaborative links with other countries.

52. We will also invest in the development of commercial opportunities for Scotland in key markets overseas. Co-ordinated teams of trade experts and diplomats will represent Scottish interests, opening up markets - including education markets - and assisting Scottish businesses and universities to expand internationally. Supported by an immigration policy that welcomes international students and high calibre researchers from across the world, our approach to global affairs and promoting Scotland overseas, will support increased research investment in our universities and underpin the continued and increased prosperity of the nation.


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