University Research

Enterprise, Lifelong Learning and Transport – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:17 pm on 9th March 2006.

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Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh Scottish National Party 2:17 pm, 9th March 2006

To ask the Scottish Executive what role it plays in ensuring that research in Scottish universities is world class and what steps it has taken to achieve this. (S2O-9246)

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

About half our higher education research base is already rated as world class and we are committed to further enhancing that. We have therefore provided unprecedented increases in funding to enable the Scottish funding council to increase support for university research by 40 per cent in real terms between 2001-02 and 2006-07.

Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh Scottish National Party

I guide the minister towards the other half. Does he accept that, although Scottish universities perform superbly well, as measured by the traditional yardsticks such as the number of articles published and number of citations, Scotland underperforms in terms of growth in gross domestic product and entrepreneurial activity compared with similarly sized countries such as Ireland and New Zealand? Those countries have unified strategic policy functions that co-ordinate and guide science and technology research and enable their universities to make the optimum contribution to economic growth and development.

How does the Scottish Government propose to measure the economic impact of higher education research in Scotland, to reform our nation's science and research policy and to enable our universities similarly to maximise the economic impact for the benefit of the nation?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

The Executive's progress report, "A Science Strategy for Scotland", was published on 28 February and sets out our progress on science since 2001. Although good progress has been made overall, the report recognised that we must accelerate our efforts if we are to maintain global competitiveness. I think that that is the point that Mr Welsh makes. We plan to consult on refreshing the strategy, which will provide a major opportunity to shape future policy. Our research base has to be flexible and responsive to global pressures and industry's needs, and it has to build entrepreneurial activity. Our strategy, which is for us to work with the Scottish funding council and for it to work with the institutions to support initiatives, is bearing fruit.