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This blog was written by Donella Beaton, Associate Vice-Principal, Business and Economic Development at Robert Gordon University. RGU are an Associate Sponsor of the SCDI Annual Lecture 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had wide-spread implications for our economy – affecting communities, organisations and businesses.  Supply chains have been disrupted, markets cancelled, business-models challenged and people have a w(ea)ry smile when they wish friends “health, wealth, and happiness for 2021”.

To the mix, add the implications of the two transitions – Brexit and energy, and regardless of your persuasion, it means for challenging times.

The pivotal role of education in dealing with at least some of these challenges is unarguable. RGU has long demonstrated its commitment to working with partners towards a robust and resilient Scotland, noted in its strategic aim – “To stimulate economic development and support organisations to be more successful”. Never has this been more important, but what does it mean?

We will continue to deliver degree programmes, producing graduates needed by industry and society, e.g. in nursing, where our students stepped up early in the fight against the pandemic;  we will continue to undertake industry-informed research in areas of regional priority such as data science, health, low carbon technologies;  we will build on the work of the RGU Energy Transition Institute set up in 2019; we are preparing to launch the National Subsea Centre; and, critically, we will also directly support businesses of all sizes to prosper using, where possible, government-funded initiatives.

RGU now has over 500 graduate apprentices, supporting businesses and providing opportunity for people to earn while they learn in the workplace. The University has also provided a suite of online upskilling short-courses, available for free, through support from the Scottish Funding Council. Going forward, RGU has committed, for the next year, to providing its upskilling courses at significantly reduced prices to enable as many people as possible to benefit. And, for people who don’t have time to commit to courses, RGU has developed Knowledge Bites for Business, providing access to insights from its community – available when you want it, and for free, on its website.

RGU also helps companies develop markets, products and services through national initiatives such as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and the Innovation Voucher Scheme.  30% of all companies supported through the IVS nationally in the last year chose to work with RGU. Of these, 32 awards were made since the start of the pandemic.

We at RGU really wish for health, wealth and happiness for the different communities we serve, not only for their 2021, but for their future.  We remain fully committed to working with others to help make this happen and to play our part in a collective recovery for the good of all.