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.


European Crucible 2021 - Creating a New Multi-Disciplinary Scottish–European Network of Research Leaders

Members involved: SUPA on behalf of RIS with ETP, MASTS, SAGES, ScotChem, SICSA, SINAPSE, SRPE, SULSA, Soillse

Date: Initiated 2021

Activity Summary: Recognising the importance of international research collaboration, the European Crucible initiative aims to create a pan-European network of future research leaders and arm them with the contacts, knowledge and abilities to create ambitious multi-disciplinary, multi-country research collaborations with the potential to attract major funding.  European Crucible 2021 was funded by Scottish Government via the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), and the Luxembourg National Research Award body (FNR) with support from RIS and all Scottish Research Pools.  Interactive Crucible ‘Labs’ included inspirational presentations from senior colleagues in academia, business, research funders and funding support organisations in Scotland, UK and Europe.

Significant Outcomes: This first European Crucible, organised in collaboration with the University of Luxembourg, brought together 25 high potential early / mid-career researchers working in 12 Scottish universities and research institutes with 25 equivalents from 12 countries across Europe.  With no restriction on discipline, selection was based on excellence in research, creative and innovative thinking, communication skills, breadth of interests and experience with multi-disciplinarity.  The selected participants spanned the life, physical, mathematical, computational, environmental, and social sciences as well as engineering, arts and humanities.

The online model was a development of the successful Scottish Crucible academic leadership programme which ran annually from 2009 to 2018, funded by SFC and partner institutions in cooperation with RSE.  The scheduling of this initiative was particularly timely to re-enforce and clarify the UK’s continuing participation in Horizon Europe following Brexit.

Seven projects selected for seed funding following the final Lab include medical, health, environment, social, legal and technology topics.  These allow teams to conduct initial investigations and experiments ahead of developing larger applications for funding. The expectation is that the creation of this network will lead to further ideas for collaborative research on longer timescales.

Next steps: The collaborative seed funded projects will be conducted over the next 15 months. Funding has been approved to support European Crucible 2022 by Scottish Government via the SFC Saltire initiative and planning has commenced. 

Socioeconomic impact: The seven projects selected for seed funding include medical, health, environment, social, legal and technology topics.

Read the full case study: European Crucible 2021


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


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 Sustainable 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 – December 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 seven collaborative proposals which were all successful through EoI stage or beyond with a total value of £19m (with a potential £13.5m* coming to Scottish Universities). These proposals targeted five funding calls, leading to the successful award to date of five collaborative projects with total funding of £7.7m, including £4.2m awarded directly to Scottish universities (* includes an ISCF Healthy Ageing Challenge: Early Trailblazer Stage 1 proposal (value £6m for full proposal)).
  • An additional three proposals totalling £13m were developed and submitted as EoI but did not progress further

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


Scottish Health & Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship (SHINE) Network


In collaboration with: IBioIC 

Date: September 2020 – early 2021

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 Monday 2nd November at 7pm on Diagnostics. The insights and advice from these webinars will be compiled into a report and online resource.


Development of an Interdisciplinary Network Integrating Data Science with Brain Health Research


In collaboration with: Scottish Dementia Research Consortium

Date: October 2020

Activity Summary: A cross-pool session in the 2020 SICSA Conference addressed multidisciplinary challenges in the early detection of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, and new opportunities to build capacity in Scotland by integrating data science with brain health research areas of neurobiology and neuroimaging. The session introduced, and welcomed early engagement in, a new Scottish network crossing the disciplinary boundaries of clinical brain research, preclinical brain research, and computing science.

Significant Outcomes: Interdisciplinary knowledge exchange led by researchers from three research pools working to build new collaborations required for advancements in dementia prediction, analysis, and modelling * Launch of a new mailing list enabling the productive exchange of ideas to continue after the session drew to a close * Proposal for central infrastructure development to facilitate cross-sectoral, data-intensive research and innovation in Scotland

Next Steps: Engagement with innovation centres that share interests related to the new brain health research network, follow-on sandpit events, and collaborative proposal development for targeted funding opportunities.

Socioeconomic Impact: Aligning with aims of the Ageing Society grand challenge, seeking to build Scottish research capacity for an integrated approach to early detection of neurodegeneration and early intervention with the potential to reduce the societal and economic burden of dementia.

Read the full case study: Brain Health Data Science Network  


The Scottish Capsule Programme (SCOTCAP)

Led By: DHI

In collaboration with: Scottish Government, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, NHS NSS, NHS Grampian, NHS Highland, NHS Western Isles, Medtronic, Corporate Health, University of Aberdeen, University of Strathclyde

Date: 2018-2020

Activity Summary: SCOTCAP is as an integral part of the redesign of outpatient gastroenterology services in Scotland.  It enables early and effective screening in the community, avoiding unnecessary hospital outpatient appointments.

Following a successful evaluation, the innovative SCOTCAP service is being adopted by NHS Scotland as part of the Covid-19 Remobilisation plans not only benefiting NHS Scotland but the wider Scottish Life Sciences Community by generating economic growth and jobs with a particular impact on remote and rural regions.

Significant Outcomes: 

  • DHI established the multi-partner collaborative to improve patient outcomes and community-based diagnostics
  • Executed a large-scale, multi-site evaluation with 3 Health Boards benefiting over 450 patients, generating qualitive and qualitative evaluation outcomes and recommendations for implementation at scale
  • Pioneered Scotland’s first Innovation Partnership Procurement, enabling commissioning bodies to “partner” and work collaboratively with private sector companies to test a new service within the community, and enable this to be rolled out across Scotland without the need for further procurement
  • Tested and refined a new innovative business model working with the industry partner ‘Corporate Health’, to create a successful managed service and secure further inward investment and economic development in the North of Scotland

Next steps: 

  • Completion of the academic publication for the clinical evaluation from the Health Service Research Unit (HSRU), University of Aberdeen.
  • The new innovative SCOTCAP service delivery model developed has been adopted by NHS Scotland and a National rollout is being overseen by National Services Scotland

Read the full case study: SCOTCAP Summary


Creating a New Interdisciplinary Scottish–European Network of Research Leaders: Part 1

Members Involved: SUPA on behalf of ETP, MASTS, SAGES, ScotChem, SICSA, SINAPSE, SRPE, SULSA, Soillse

Date: Initiated 2020

Activity Summary: Recognising the importance of international research collaboration, European Crucible, funded by Scottish Government via SFC and in cooperation with the University of  Luxembourg, is a leadership programme for early/mid-career researchers from any Scottish university or Research Institute, who wish to build pan-European interdisciplinary networks and collaborations.  Following the success of Scottish Crucible over the past decade, a number of ‘Labs’ are designed to stimulate original ideas for new ambitious research collaborations between Scottish and European researchers.

Significant Outcomes – Scottish Cohort:

  • 25 outstanding researchers from 15 Scottish institutions were selected from 95 applications across all disciplines based on excellence in research, creative and innovative thinking, communication skills, breadth of interests and experience with interdisciplinarity.
  • ‘Virtual Lab 1’ (1/12/2020) facilitated by UKRI Board member, Vivienne Parry, included inspiring presentations and Q&As with RSE President, SFC Director for Research and Innovation, UKRI Director of Talent and Skills, and Executive Director of Fraunhofer UK Research Ltd. All Cruciblists presented their research, interests and ideas for discussion in the form of mini-posters.
  • ‘Virtual Lab 2’ (10/12/2020) included talks and Q&A on European collaboration led by Prof David Paterson, MASTS Executive Director and Dr Katherine Dunn, SRPE member. A one-to-one networking session allowed all participants to build knowledge of each other’s research interests.

Next Steps – Scotland-Europe:

  • 4 Virtual Labs (late Feb/early Mar 2021) will bring together the Scottish cohort with a matching number of researchers from across Europe seeking to develop international collaborations.
  • The call for applications from European countries closed on Wednesday 13th January 2021.

Socioeconomic Impact: European Crucible offers opportunities to build new research collaborations at the interfaces between life, physical, engineering, computational, mathematical, environmental, and social sciences, arts and humanities between Scotland and Europe to take on global grand challenges.

Read the full case study: European Crucible


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