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Research Impact Case Studies

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SFC’s investments in university research make a difference to how we live now and in the future, as the following case studies show:

Scotland’s Mountain Bike Innovation Centre - Innovation funding in action

Man riding a mountain bike.

Photo: Tim Foster

The story of Scotland’s Mountain Bike Innovation Centre goes back to 2014 and a two-year grant of £220,000 from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and support from Edinburgh Napier University, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Cycling and the Forestry Commission Scotland.

The Centre was officially opened in June 2014 at the Forestry Commission’s Glentress trailhead near Peebles. Its purpose was to be a hub for research partnerships between colleges, universities and businesses needing support in research and development.

The project proved to be an excellent example of what can happen when economic needs are matched to the capabilities of Scotland’s world class research base. The Centre’s activities have covered market research, concept development and product testing, and it has been incredibly successful in helping Scottish businesses to capitalise on one of the country’s fastest growing sports.

In 2023, planning permission was granted to transform a former textile mill in Innerleithen into the new home of the Mountain Bike Innovation Centre. From Caerlee Mil, the Centre will offer new teaching and research opportunities. It will also continue to support businesses to develop innovative products and services, and even to train and test athletes within the mountain biking and cycling sector.

The Mountain Bike Innovation Centre is a fantastic example of how innovation funding is invested by SFC and others to grow and support progressive and long-lasting partnerships between colleges, universities and industry.

Edinburgh Napier University – towards better health outcomes

Cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of death globally. Researchers at Edinburgh Napier University are exploring the detection and management of the disease to improve patient care and survival rates and explore financial savings for the NHS.  

Research funding from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) is supporting Napier’s recently  created Centre for Cardiovascular Health. The flexibility and agility of SFC funding means the University can make investments that act on opportunities to develop key areas of research and strengthen networks with international partners.  

Researchers at the new Centre for Cardiovascular Health have already developed significant  research collaborations with the NHS and other health bodies into innovative digital solutions for management of common cardiovascular health issues, including high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation. They have also developed collaborations that are exploring the positive effects of physical activity in managing chronic medical conditions, including COVID-19.   

The Centre’s work will lead to economic savings to government public health spending at a time when the NHS is under immense pressure. It will also accelerate improvements in patient survival rates and changes in international policy and practice. 

University of Aberdeen – research for a sustainable future

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen’s Centre of Excellence in Soil Science are advancing our knowledge of how to control greenhouse gas emissions, reduce soil degradation and produce food in a sustainable way. 

Scottish Funding Council investment has underpinned the Centre’s development and its contributions to environmental science in many ways, including helping to secure other sources of funding. 

Amongst its many benefits this ongoing financial support has made possible the work of the Centre’s Environmental Modelling Group. The group studies all aspects of the environment but specialises in soils, land-based ecosystems, carbon cycling, greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture, food systems and bioenergy. It models these for sustainability and in order to develop ways to mitigate climate change and reduce soil degradation.  

Professor Pete Smith, one of the co-leaders of the group pioneered the innovative Cool Farm Tool, an award-winning free app now used by tens of thousands of growers and agri-food businesses worldwide to easily calculate greenhouse gas emissions, soil quality, biodiversity and water use.  

The groups other co-leader, Professor Jo Smith, led the development of the Scottish Government Windfarm Carbon Calculator, a tool that aims to ensure that windfarm developments reduce carbon emissions while not damaging sensitive peatlands.

Robert Gordon University – the future of energy efficiency

Domestic energy renovation projects are lagging behind the level needed to decarbonise homes within net zero timescales. Helping homeowners to reduce the environmental footprint of their homes is therefore as important for the planet as it is for helping people manage their long-term energy costs. 

The Stronghouse project was an inter-regional, multi-agency initiative for energy efficiency. The project finished last year but it has left a strong legacy to which the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment at Robert Gordon University (RGU) has made a significant contribution.  

Part of the Stronghouse legacy is the School’s design, testing and evaluation of a prototype for a new online app that makes it easy for people to carry out a self-assessment of the saving potential of their homes. Alongside the self-assessment results, the app provides homeowners with guidance, support and advice on how to invest in energy efficiency, including information about grants. 

The tool also offers homeowners long term step-by-step retrofit plans to help them improve their energy efficiency through cutting edge technologies. 

A further legacy at RGU is the introduction of a new post-graduate course which builds on research carried out as part of the Stronghouse project. 

SFC Strategic Plan 2022-27

Building a connected, agile, sustainable tertiary education and research system for Scotland.

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