RESEARCH

Pan-Scottish partnership turns region into global engineering powerhouse

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Academics from 10 Scottish universities are working with government and industrial partners to drive research excellence in engineering.

A strategic pan-Scottish engineering research pool involving 10 university partners has been creating real impact for the region and contributing towards efforts to keep Scotland on the leading edge of science and innovation.

Officially formed in 2016, the Scottish Research Partnership in Engineering (SRPe) is the culmination of efforts by the Scottish Funding Council to create a platform of collaboration for the region’s researchers. Through the SRPe, the best and brightest minds in academia pool their expertise and resources, and work with industry to solve complex challenges and unlock new opportunities.

“Scotland has a proud pioneering tradition from the industrial revolution onwards and innovation across engineering and technology continues to be vital for the nation’s economic prosperity,” said SRPe Chair and Strathclyde Principal Professor Sir Jim McDonald in his keynote address at the inaugural SRPe annual conference held recently.

“The talented research community within SRPe are ensuring that the continued growth and quality of university engineering research here remains at the heart of the country’s present and future success.”

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The partnership’s 10 university partners include the University of Aberdeen, University of Dundee, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University, University of Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian University, Heriot-Watt University, Robert Gordon University Aberdeen, University of Strathclyde, and University of the West of Scotland. 

Research activities are conducted across five strategic themes: advanced manufacturing, engineering at the life sciences interface, robotics and autonomous systems, infrastructure and environment, and energy. 

These themes are generated based on industry needs as well as national economic growth opportunities and challenges. Each theme is led by a Thematic Leadership Group (TLG) that consists of academic representatives from the 10 universities.

This allows the partnership to serve as a coordinated national research resource for the government, industry and global research community.

Collaborative Research
Research outputs under the partnership are done in accordance with five strategic themes. Source: Christina@wocintechchat.com/Unsplash

Among the partnership’s outputs are doctorate research projects conducted by industry-sponsored PhD students. This was part of the NMIS Industry Doctorate Programme (NMIS-IDP) whereby the SRPe acts as a delivery partner in collaboration with the National Manufacturing Institute (NMIS). 

These projects aim to address key manufacturing challenges and opportunities in the aerospace, energy, marine, biochemical, food & drink, transport, defence, quantum, photonics and pharmaceutical sectors. 

The work of SRPe, including its role in supporting NMIS reach across Scotland, is vital in encouraging such innovation in Scottish engineering.‎ We are hugely supportive of this type of collaboration between the public sector, industry and academia that SRPe exemplifies,” said Public Finance and Digital Economy Minister Kate Forbes at the conference.

“Engineering research and innovation will continue to play a critical role in shaping our nation’s future success, particularly as we enter the digital era,” added SRPe Executive Director Dr Caroline Cantley. 

“The SRPe universities relish the exciting opportunities ahead and will continue to work in close collaboration with industry and government to build upon Scotland’s research excellence, to enhance our international competitiveness and address key skills gaps in engineering and related sectors.” 

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Created in 2004, the concept of “research pooling” is a brainchild of the Scottish Funding Council. It essentially involves consolidating research efforts and getting partner institutions to pool their resources and expertise to build on Scotland’s research excellence and international competitive edge.

The SRPe is the final product of this consolidation.

It was formed in 2016 as a combination of three separate regional partnerships that were brought together to provide increased critical-mass and overall impact from Scottish university-led engineering research.

Now, the SRPe provides more cohesion in carrying out integrated collaborative research across the 10 universities to establish Scotland as a world-class centre of research excellence and a competitive global player in tackling the most complex technological and socio-economical industry challenges.