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Business and universities pledge closer partnership to drive Scotland’s economic growth

The Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) and Universities Scotland have today [Wednesday 18 December] published a joint statement of shared ambition for how organisations in the private, public and third sectors and universities can work together in new and closer ways to drive Scotland’s sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Both SCDI and Universities Scotland call on the Scottish Government to back the joint statement between business and academia and to support its delivery with the right policy and funding frameworks.

Universities and business already work together on the curriculum development and accreditation of university degrees, research and innovation. Scottish universities work with around 20,000 businesses every year to support their innovation needs and a recent survey found 93% of business respondents have links with universities. Business and industry report high demand for university graduates, with 79% of UK employers predicting their company will grow its need for highly skilled people.

Looking to the future, and changing needs of business and industry, the joint statement sets out shared ambitions for:
• Developing people with the skills and attributes to drive economic growth;
• Stimulating the growth of innovative small and medium sized businesses;
• Supporting research and its translation into new products and processes;
• Attracting talent to Scotland from the rest of the UK, the EU and globally; and
• Making Scotland a world leader in exports and in attracting inward investment.

SCDI and Universities Scotland call on Scottish Government support including:
• Policies that support peoples’ learning throughout their careers, as they adapt to the opportunities of a changing economy;
• Policies that support SMEs to invest in their staff and their leadership;
• The Enterprise Agencies working with a wider range of businesses to promote innovation, and to promote business demand for universities’ contribution to innovation;
• Scottish Government to include higher education as a key part of its export strategy, and to work closely with business and universities to attract inward investment.

The joint statement of shared ambition is published just weeks after the publication of Musctaelli Report: Driving Innovation in Scotland, commissioned by the SG and led by the Principal of the University of Glasgow, which called on all partners to work together on a national mission to make Scotland the most innovative small nation in the world. The joint statement makes clear that Scotland’s business and university sectors share a high level of ambition for Scotland.

Commenting on the publication of the joint statement of shared ambition, SCDI Chair Ian Wall said:
“Business and universities are increasingly close partners for the common good. Scotland will be most successful if it’s business and higher education sectors are both dynamic and excellent, and work closely together, so as to provide a greater combined impact.

“We’re committed to that – and we look forward to exploring with the Scottish Government how they can further catalyse the creation of a ‘virtuous cycle’ of innovative businesses and excellent universities.”

Universities Scotland Convener and Principal of Edinburgh Napier University, Professor Andrea Nolan, said:
“Scottish universities are key forces for inclusive economic growth. We’re close partners with business, developing people with the skills for business success, and in the development of new products and processes.

“We hope this statement of shared ambition – along with Anton Muscatelli’s report on universities’ role in innovation – will be matched by the Scottish Government’s commitment to supporting universities and business to make our fullest contribution to Scotland’s success.”