UHI wins two Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 2024

The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) has claimed two prestigious accolades at this year’s Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards, which celebrate innovative people and partnerships in the world of business-academia collaborations.

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From left to right: Professor Stuart Gibb, and Steven Andrews, UHI Environmental Research Institute; Darlene Russell, UHI; Morag Robertson, UHI Environmental Research Institute; Lukas Princ, HITRANS; and Professor Michael Rayner, UHI

The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) has claimed two prestigious accolades at this year’s Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards, which celebrate innovative people and partnerships in the world of business-academia collaborations.

This is the third year in a row UHI projects have been recognised.

A partnership to support the management and restoration of the largest blanket bog in the world, and a testing programme for low carbon aircraft operations were amongst seven winning projects at the awards, which recognise the achievements in research and development between organisations, colleges and universities. The Flow Country Partnership, working with the Environmental Research Institute, part of UHI North, West and Hebrides, took home the ‘Making An Environmental Difference’ award.

The partnership is working to re-evaluate and restore the blanket bog peatlands of the Flow Country, Caithness and Sutherland, to promote carbon capture and

biodiversity, optimise community benefit in one of the least densely populated areas of Europe, and secure UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

Professor Stuart Gibb, Director of the Environmental Research Institute, said: “The Flow Country Partnership is a multi-stakeholder partnership with a shared vision to create a healthy peatland ecosystem, globally recognised for its biodiversity and carbon storage potential. We are working to see this area restored and enhanced to tackle the nature and climate crises and to drive sustainable development and resilient communities. I am incredibly proud to see the value of our research and effective partnership working in the Flow Country recognised in this way.”

It’s the second time the Environmental Research Institute has won the ‘Making An Environmental Difference’ award. It took home the accolade in 2022 for The One Health Breakthrough Partnership, a collaboration with NHS Highland. Last year the Environmental Research Institute and Sustainable Thinking Scotland CIC also won ‘Innovation of the Year’.

The Environmental Research Institute host the 8th Flow Country Research Conference in Thurso this week. Professor Roxane Andersen, UHI’s Professor of Peatland Sciences and lead organiser of the conference, continued: “This award recognises the hard work of the partnership over the year, but also the excellence of the science that underpins the management and restoration of the Flow Country. This science and the collaborative approach that makes it possible, is exactly what will be showcased and celebrated over the coming days here in Thurso.”

The ‘Multiparty Collaboration’ award went to Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE), the UK’s first low carbon test location at Kirkwall Airport.

SATE, a collaboration between UHI and multiple partners in the public and private sector, has created, through the rigorous and technology-agnostic evaluation of low-carbon technologies, a blueprint for the commercialisation of green regional aircraft operations, providing increased resilience for communities and businesses in remote and rural locations.

Andrew Rae, UHI’s Professor of Engineering based at UHI Perth, said: “As co-creators of the project with Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd we are extremely proud to see this recognition of work that is both reducing the impact of aviation on the environment and improving connectivity for the communities in our region. The project is a perfect example of how universities can work with industry and government agencies to create a programme involving partners for whom research is not usual business and create a local solution to a global problem”.

Lukas Princ, SATE Business Manager, said: “We’re immensely proud to have received an award recognising the collaborative efforts being made across the project. SATE’s greatest strength is its international consortium of industry partners, public sector bodies and academia, and this award is a testament to their fantastic work.

“The cross-sector blend of organisations gives SATE access to an incredible breadth of expertise, which has been invaluable in the pursuit of our overarching aims to demonstrate the practical applications of our technology by solving connectivity challenges and creating a strong base for the emerging sustainable aviation sector in Scotland.”

Professor Michael Rayner, Dean of Research and Knowledge Exchange at UHI, said: “This is a hugely proud and significant testimony to the work of our colleagues, not just in these teams but in all the other research work taking place across our partnership, whether well-established or still in its relative infancy.”

“Achievements like this can only come about as a result of years of dedicated research, based on the skills and expertise of researchers who are driven in the pursuit of their aims and objectives to address key questions and issues, and, in the case of these awards, the colleagues involved are experts in partnerships and novel ways and processes so as to push the boundaries of knowledge and potential.”

The Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards are organised by business-academic matchmaking organisation Interface. They celebrate successful partnerships at the cutting-edge of research and development, from local micro-businesses to globally significant discoveries, partnering with universities, colleges, and research institutes to change lives in Scotland and beyond.

Now in its 9th year, the awards ceremony took place at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow on Thursday 14 March. To see the full list of winners, visit the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards website.