Case studies

Much of the activities undertaken individually by Research Pools are interdisciplinary and innovative in their nature, however here we show some key examples in the last few years where the Pools and Innovation Centres have come together to co-organise and create new initiatives and events.


Optical Imaging for Medicine, Healthcare & Biology

Members involved: SUPA, SINAPSE, SULSA, CENSIS, IBioIC, DHI, PMS-IC and Interface

Date: Initiated 2018 – launched 2019

Activity Summary: A joint SUPA, SULSA, SINAPSE project funded by SFC with contributions from the three pools, comprised a review of global market opportunities for optical imaging, appointment of an innovator-in residence, a review of research strengths, identification of commercial opportunities, identification of Scottish-based major bid consortia, a Crucible Workshop for 50 early and mid-career researchers with world experts, and proof-of-principle (Pop) projects. 

Significant Outcomes:

  • World market for optical imaging for medical, pharmaceutical and biology research sectors identified as in the range US$ 3.8 – 9 billion with substantial further growth forecast.
  • Five potential university spin-out companies identified, two of which under discussion with Scottish Enterprise.
  • Eight university-industry PoP projects selected for seed funding.
  • Engagement with FraunhoferUK, Stanford, Berkeley and Duke Universities, and Scottish based companies, Zeiss (UK), Nikon (UK), Chromacity Ltd, Optos (Nikon UK), Tissue Solutions Ltd, Devro plc, Horiba Scientific Ltd, Wide Blue Ltd.
  • Four potential Scottish-based major bid consortia identified. UKRI/SIPF outline selected for funding by UKRI to assist in preparation of a full £10m+ proposal. Award of £7.6m by UKRI/EPSRC to “U-Care: Deep ultraviolet light therapies”.

Next steps: Continuation of 12 month PoP projects. Continued development of major funding bids to UKRI (e.g. SIPF) and other funders.

Socioeconomic impact: This initiative addressed two areas of significant activity in the Scottish economy, namely life sciences and photonics; spin-out opportunities and large UKRI bid consortia were identified for development in optical imaging for medicine, healthcare, and biology, as well as launching new proof of principle R&D projects between academia and industry within an estimated US$ 9 billion global market.

Read the full case study: A Succesful Model for Bridging University and Industry in Enabling Technologies


Global Climate Challenges for a Blue Green Economy

Led by: SAGES

In collaboration with: MASTS, Scottish Government, SEFARI, RSE, RSGS, Climate-KIC, Blue Carbon Forum, NERC Arctic Office, Geoverbund, climateXchange

Date: November 2019

Activity Summary: Opened by Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform this event focussed on three challenge areas:
1) Gathering Evidence: mosaic of underpinning research advancing earth system forecasting.
2) Assessing Relevance: issue-dependent evidence base needed for policy and regulation.
3) Designing Solutions: design and implementation of targeted solutions to achieve Climate Planning aspirations.

Significant Outcomes: Significant networking event taking a solutions-based approach to Global Climate Challenges. Bringing together policymakers, regulators, government scientists and university academics to consider practical steps required to meet climate-based aspirations of Scotland’s Programme for Government. The event pathed the way for the SAGES / Scottish Government Policy Internship Programme.

Next steps: On-going policy internship programme with the Scottish Government. Increased pan-agency communications in the geosciences for pre-COP26 awareness-raising events. A series of events, initially on-hold due to COP26 postponement, will now run right through from October 2020 to November 2021 – watch this space.

Read the full case study: Global Climate Challenges for a Blue Green Economy


Natural Products in the Bioeconomy Initiative

Members involved: SULSA, ScotCHEM and IBioIC

Date: October 2019

Activity Summary: For the launch of our Natural Products in the Bioeconomy initiative, 65 prominent academics and industry leaders, from across 28 unique organisations, came together in a multidisciplinary workshop. The aim being to explore the field of Natural Products and their utility in Scotland’s growing Bio Economy. The event aimed to foster collaborations across academic and industrial institutions, unearth opportunities for funding and identify key areas for growth in Scotland.

Significant Outcomes: * Interdisciplinary projects funded * Cross-cutting collaborations built i.e. The University of Edinburgh and NCIMB * Steering committee across 5 Universities from ECRs to professors formed * Identification of growth areas has increased our scope to include collaboration with SAIC * Webinar in collaboration with BEIS * Plans for an international summer school * 

Next steps:We plan to engage with KTN and IBioIC to contribute to the National Bioeconomy Cluster Builder initiative. We will drive forward our strategy in growing Scotland’s bioeconomy and building international partnerships, a current and topical area of focus is in marine natural products in drug discovery. Plans are underway for a summer school following the WCP

Socioeconomic impact: Toward sustainable and renewable energy and materials as well as food sources and advances in healthcare. The development of our natural resources impacts drug discovery, antimicrobial resistance, feedstocks, and agriculture.

Read the full case study: Natural Products in the Bioeconomy


Cross-Disciplinary Knowledge Exchange in a Virtual Event

In collaboration with: SUPA, SULSA and NHS Research Scotland

Date: June 2020

Activity Summary: The 2020 SINAPSE Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) moved to a virtual format in order to enable the Scottish medical imaging research community to keep in contact and share research progress even under COVID-19 lockdown conditions. An online event platform successfully delivered an interactive ASM experience with knowledge exchange across disciplines including physics, psychology, chemistry, medicine, and computer science.

Significant Outcomes: Presentation of Optical Imaging cross-pool initiative involving three research pools * Recordings of ASM speakers’ presentations made available on the SINAPSE website * Learning experience of organising a virtual event shared with the cross-pooling community

Next steps: Plans to consider a virtual or partially-virtual meeting as a future model for SINAPSE ASMs, and to organise future collaborative activities with other research pools and innovation centres building on cross-disciplinary interests.

Socioeconomic impact: The virtual format improved accessibility for those challenged by distant geography, time constraints, childcare arrangements and mobility issues, and improved environmental sustainability through the elimination of travel carbon emissions and event waste.

Read the full case study: Cross-Disciplinary Knowledge Exchange in a Virtual Event


MASTS PhD Studentships Co-funded with Innovation Centres


Members involved: SAIC, The Data Lab, IBioIC and CXC

Activity Summary: The co-funding of studentships has allowed MASTS to develop good relationships with a number of the Innovation Centres. These studentships are spread across a number of our partner institutions and utilise a shared supervision model to enhance collaboration and build long-term relationships.

Significant Outcomes: Training of our early career researchers (ECR) in Scotland in interdisciplinary research that impacts on our grand challenges in climate change and food security. Expanding our ECRs’ network across academia and industry. “Being in a studentship with SAIC and the Data Lab has helped build invaluable links to industry. The contacts I have made through the innovation centres has helped focus my project on what industry will require in the future as well as provide feedback for work completed. The networks built will also prove extremely useful in the future, whether that is within academia or moving to industry” John Phelan. 

Next steps: MASTS always welcomes approaches from co-funders, so please get in touch.

Socioeconomic impact:  The overarching aim of each our four studentships with the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) is to deliver a tangible benefit to the aquaculture sector and increase societal food security under the emerging challenges of sustainable exploitation and climate change.

Read the full case study: MASTS PhD Studentships Co-funded with Innovation Centres


Robotics, Autonomous Systems & Artificial Intelligence Industrial Impact Acceleration

Led By: SRPe

Members involved: SICSA, ETP, The Data Lab, CENSIS, MASTS, Interface

Date: August 2018 – July 2020

Activity Summary: The SFC awarded strategic funding to SRPe to accelerate the delivery and impact of collaborative cross-disciplinary RAS & AI research activities across Scotland. Priority areas of industry / end-user challenge and opportunity aligned with the research strengths of the Scottish universities were identified via a series of collaborative cross-sectoral multi-disciplinary workshops and events. Collaborative proposals were developed targeting key funding opportunities to address industry / end-user priority needs, support overall socio-economic growth, and future-proof the competitiveness of Scotland in this globally transformational field.

Significant Outcomes:

  • Increased visibility of Scottish research excellence in RAS & AI, and strengthened collaborative relationships between academia, industry/end-users and the public sector.
  • Identification of key priorities, challenges and opportunities for RAS & AI applications across healthcare, advanced manufacturing, extreme and hazardous environments and AI in the data driven economy.
  • Delivery of six cross-disciplinary collaborative workshops, plus three supporting events delivered jointly between SICSA/SRPe, ETP/SRPe and SRPe/ORCA Hub, with contributions from across seven RIS member research pools / innovation centres; ten universities; seven research / innovation organisations; forty-three industrial companies / end-user organisations; and five public sector organisations.
  • Development of ten collaborative proposals with a total value of £11.4m – £17.4m*, targeted at five funding calls, leading to the successful award to date of three collaborative projects with total funding of £4.6m, including £3m awarded directly to Scottish universities (* includes an ISCF Healthy Ageing Challenge: Early Trailblazer Stage 1 proposal (value £5m-£10m for full proposal)).

Next steps: SRPe’s collaborative activities and programme of workshops continues under SRPe’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems theme. These continue to be focused on cross-disciplinary cross-sectoral collaboration in areas of high priority for industry / end-user organisations, and targeted at UKRI, ISCF and other high impact funding opportunities. SRPe also continue to work in close collaboration with the National Robotarium and the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland to initiate new pan-Scottish research and industrial collaborations, help drive the low-carbon revolution and create new business and jobs in Scotland.

Read the full case study: Robotics, Autonomous Systems & Artificial Intelligence Industrial Impact Acceleration Initiative


Scottish Health & Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship (SHINE) Network


In collaboration with: IBioIC 

Activity Summary: The Scottish Health & Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship (SHINE) Network has been established by a SULSA academic at the University of St Andrews, Professor Rebecca Goss. The motivation behind creating this network was to bridge the gap between academia and industry, highlighting to our academics what potential lies in transforming research ideas into business. The network is quickly growing across our Universities, with committees comprising senior lecturers to undergraduates forming at a fast rate. The aim of this initiative is to run monthly Monday webinars that lead up to an in-person networking event for all training and career levels. A truly inclusive event. The first SHINE event ran on Monday September 7th, which kicked off with an interview led by early career researcher, Scarlet Ferrino, to the Clearwater entrepreneur pair – Rachel and Andrew Montague. This was followed by insights into how to spin-out a company from Pneumagen’s Garry Taylor and then Deborah O’Neill from Novabiotics on impact and response to COVID-19. The event was further supported by Ross Gillanders, Senior Research Fellow (co-Chair), and Robert Hammond, Research Fellow/Orbital Diagnostics (Q&A host). The event was sponsored by SULSA, The University of St Andrews with support from IBioIC.

Significant Outcomes: Over 100 people attended the live stream event from across the life science academic, business and public health sector.

Next steps: This event will be followed by Monthly webinars hosted by different Universities across Scotland. The next is October 5th at 7pm on Diagnostics. The insights and advice from these webinars will be compiled into a report and online resource.