The impact of the investment was highlighted during a visit by the HIE Board today (Tuesday 13 February), to a research lab at Inverness Campus. Board members met some of those involved in the new research and education institute.
The University of the Highlands and Islands’ School of Health, Social Care and Life Sciences development brings benefits across the region. It is enabling a regional academic team to engage proactively with commercial opportunities, including attracting new life sciences businesses to the region.
The School will support the growth in life sciences by providing talented graduates and helping companies with employee recruitment and professional development. It already has 70 research staff and post-graduate students, and a further 125 undergraduate nursing students.
Life sciences is a priority growth sector for HIE. The agency’s investment in the School of Health, Social Care and Life Sciences is being targeted at enhancing commercialisation activities and the research capacity in key regional themes. These include digital health, diabetes and remote and rural health, where the University of the Highlands and Islands is internationally renowned, and new growth areas such as Active Health (prevention, rehabilitation and prehabilitation – getting patients fit for medical interventions).
During the visit, HIE Board members met the 16 principal investigators, post-doctoral researchers and research technicians, whose recruitment was supported by the agency’s contribution. They also met the PhD students that the funding has helped to bring to the region.
Professor Lorne Crerar, chair of HIE, said:
“A strong university sector is crucial to our region’s economic prosperity and the resilience of rural communities. That’s why the sector is so important to HIE. The new School of Health, Social Care and Life Sciences is a huge step forward by the University of the Highlands and Islands and we are delighted to be supporting it.
“It was extremely valuable for Board members to meet some of the people involved in the project; the research teams, PhD students and staff, and hear about some of the work they are taking forward. There has been excellent progress over the past year or so, with the new school set to support not only a thriving Inverness Campus but campuses across the region.
“This contributes to our work to boost inward investment and support growth in the life science sector. The associated innovation in health care delivery links to our strengthening communities activities, including in fragile areas.”
In addition to HIE funding, the School of Health, Social Care and Life Sciences has attracted contributions from the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal, the European Structural and Investment Funds, as well as European Inter-Reg funding. It also has MOUs (memorandums of understanding) with public partners and national and international businesses across a wide array of health research topics.
The School is developing strong working relationships with universities and commercial companies, locally, nationally and internationally. The HIE funding has already helped to lever around £2m of grant funding only 18 months into the five-year project.
Professor Crichton Lang, University of the Highlands and Islands Deputy Principal and Head of School of Health, Social Care and Life Sciences, said: “We were pleased to have the opportunity to showcase some of our facilities and talk about the development of our School of Health, Social Care and Life Sciences with Highlands and Islands Enterprise board members today. HIE’s funding is playing a crucial role in the development of the school, which has been identified as one of our most important strategic aims.
“Our school will improve access to education and training across health, allied health and social care. It will also enhance our understanding and development of innovative strategies and tools for health and care delivery in remote and rural contexts. This will have a transformational impact on health and social care in the Highland and Islands.”
The Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal is a joint initiative supported by up to £315m investment from the UK and Scottish governments, The Highland Council, HIE and University of the Highland and Islands, aimed at stimulating sustainable regional economic growth.