A new collaborative centre in Inverness was opened today (Thursday 25 August) by Deputy First Minister John Swinney.
The £13 million building on Inverness Campus (pictured) is named An Lòchran, Gaelic for The Lamp/Lantern, and aspires to be a role model for collaboration between enterprise, education and research.
The facility is shared by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the University of the Highlands and Islands and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).
It also houses the country’s first digital demonstration centre, #hellodigital, aimed at encouraging small businesses to make the most of broadband and digital technology. This was also formally opened by Mr Swinney today.
Other occupants of An Lòchran include the STEM hub, renewables organisation and HIE subsidiary, Wave Energy Scotland (WES), the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service (SMAS) and Interface, the service that builds links between business and universities.
Mr Swinney said: “To date, the Inverness Campus project has attracted over £100m of investment, and independent research has shown that it already has potential to support up to 1,300 jobs on site and create 940 new jobs across the Highlands and Islands over the next five years.
“I am proud of the investment this Government is making in the Highlands and Islands’ and I look forward to seeing the results of this unique partnership between HIE, UHI and SRUC.”
He added: “I am also pleased to be able to officially launch #hellodigital the new demonstration centre, supported through our Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership, and located in An Lòchran. It aims to promote the benefits of increased digital engagement to help Scotland fulfil its potential in an increasingly digital age and has already seen a fantastic programme of events, exhibitions and talks attracting speakers from Google, Microsoft and IBM.”
HIE staff based in the building include teams working across the organisation’s four directorates of Business and Sector Development, Strengthening Communities, Regional Development and Corporate Services. It also houses the agency’s Inner Moray Firth area team, one of eight area teams, who work with businesses and communities across south Ross-shire, Inverness, Nairn and Badenoch and Strathspey.
Alex Paterson, chief executive of HIE, said: “We are delighted to be located in this stunning building. Our vision from the outset has been for Inverness Campus to encourage collaboration between business, research, academia and the wider community. An Lòchran has been designed as a multi occupancy facility and very much at the heart of that vision. Our co-location with key research and education departments has created excellent new opportunities for more joint working.”
The University of the Highlands and Islands has a number of teams based in An Lòchran. These are its laboratory skills for industry postgraduate training and genetics research teams; rural health and wellbeing department; learning and teaching academy; educational development unit; department of offshore engineering, economic intelligence and low carbon policy unit and its STEM hub, a collaborative project which works with schools to promote science, technology, engineering and maths. The facility also houses Inverness College UHI’s Rivers and Lochs Institute.
Professor Clive Mulholland, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands said: “We are excited to be one of the residents in this fantastic new facility. Being located with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and SRUC in a state-of-the-art building will offer new opportunities for collaboration and development in our curriculum, our research and our engagement with the communities we serve.”
Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has two divisions based at An Lòchran. Its Epidemiology Research Unit integrates a range of sciences on animal health and welfare to improve understanding and control of animal disease. The SAC Consulting, Farm & Rural Business Services unit (FRBS) offers advice on farm and rural enterprises, including farm payment schemes, livestock, crops and conservation.
Professor Wayne Powell, Principal of SRUC, said: “SRUC has always had strong links with the Highlands and Islands and this new facility will help us grow and strengthen our work here. Rapid translation of new knowledge to support and drive forward our rural economy is at the heart of everything we do and that is most effective when we work with others. This shared facility will encourage further collaboration with UHI, HIE and others in ways which can help local enterprises, including farming and crofting, to embrace new technologies informed by innovative research.”
Inverness Campus is one of Scotland’s most ambitious projects. Its development is led by HIE to support the further expansion of some of the region’s key sectors with a particular focus on life sciences. The site has been specifically designed to encourage collaboration between business, research and academia, both within the campus and with neighbouring organisations such as LifeScan Scotland, Raigmore Hospital and the Centre for Health Science.
Inverness Campus has particular appeal for those in the life sciences sector and has a Scottish Government designation as an Enterprise Area for Life Sciences.
Since Mr Swinney officially opened the 215 acre site in May 2015 it has seen the development of several new buildings, including the award-winning Aurora House, a new £2.2 million Life Sciences building. Developed by HIE, the first phase of Inverness Campus features 17 fully serviced plots for innovative organisations looking to grow business through co-location and collaboration with like-minded enterprising companies.
The first business sector investor was confirmed in March this year as Scottish Vet Referrals which is developing a plot on the Campus for the north of Scotland’s first purpose-built veterinary referral practice. Aquaculture company, Aqua Pharma, has since become the first tenant of Aurora House.
Pictured: An Lochran. By Tim Winterburn/HIE