New construction hub promises to ‘champion’ innovation

Stephen Good

A collaborative initiative led by Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) and Inverness College UHI has promised to ‘champion’ innovation in the construction and manufacturing sector across the Highlands and Islands region through the new Make It Smart Hub.

The Hub was one of twelve projects announced last week to have received funding from the European regional development fund and the Scottish Government through the advancing manufacturing challenge fund.

The developers said that the Make It Smart Hub will support and encourage construction and manufacturing SMEs to learn, apply and share new technologies, processes and skills that improve productivity and drive inclusive growth.

They added that it is designed to provide ‘multiple channels making it easier for companies to engage, collaborate, learn and apply innovation in their businesses, wherever they are based, to improve productivity and profitability, secure competitive advantage, and unlock new economic opportunities’.

The supporting programme will deliver a range of activities and provide numerous benefits to SMEs, including:

  • An online portal: ‘An innovation-driven knowledge exchange portal for SMEs to work collaboratively on-line to capitalise on local business opportunities.’
  • Access to equipment and technological expertise: ‘A 5-axis CNC machine, robotic equipment and sawmill simulator will be located at Inverness College UHI to support SMEs explore innovative practices. Transportable equipment will also be showcased at other UHI partners, offices, factory sites, conference and exhibitions.’
  • CPD events and virtual demonstrations: ‘This will include live feeds or demonstrations from Inverness College UHI and its partners or CSIC in Hamilton.’
  • R&D and collaboration opportunities: ‘Inverness College UHI and its partners will provide academic and business solutions expertise to SMEs. The partnership between Inverness College UHI and CSIC will also facilitate additional opportunities for industry-led knowledge exchange and collaborations amongst businesses.’

CSIC chief executive Stephen Good said, “As construction and manufacturing restart post-Covid, the sectors will become more focused and reliant on innovative solutions in order to remain competitive and deliver increased value outcomes. The timely launch of the Make It Smart project will encourage SMEs across the H&Is to consider new solutions and adopt an innovative approach to developing construction and manufacturing capabilities, by demonstrating cutting edge technology, equipment and processes.”

Georgina Parker, director of external relations at Inverness College UHI, added, “Inverness College UHI is delighted to be working in partnership with CSIC on this project, which will provide SMEs in the Highlands and Islands with access to specialist equipment, technical expertise, research and development support and online content. Inverness College UHI and the University of the Highlands and Islands partnership will have a key role to play in supporting the region’s economy as it recovers from the Covid-19 health crisis and we are ready to work with all our partners in the sector to provide the support it needs to develop and innovate, as well as upskill and reskill their workforce, in these challenging times.”

Steven Hutcheon, Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s acting regional head of technology and innovation, commented, “Innovation is fundamental to business growth and diversification. It is also absolutely essential in Scotland’s economic recovery. The new Make it Smart Hub will enable business across our region to benefit from new technologies and new thinking, particularly in areas of construction, such as digitisation, offsite manufacturing, low carbon technologies and technical expertise. We very much welcome its launch and look forward to it playing a key role as we emerge from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.”