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New initiative aims to encourage universities to work together on key issues

The funding is intended to aid research into societal challenges (David Davies/PA)
The funding is intended to aid research into societal challenges (David Davies/PA)

Scottish universities are to benefit from funding support to address societal challenges while boosting the country’s research competitiveness, it has been revealed.

The Alliance for Research Challenges (ARCs) initiative will see Scottish universities work together to tackle some of the biggest issues facing the country, including: energy transition, food systems, healthy aging and quantum technologies, which includes creating connections for the future economy.

Higher Education Minister Jamie Hepburn visited the Mazumdar-Shaw Advanced Research Centre at Glasgow University to announce the challenge areas selected for the new national research initiative.

The Scottish Funding Council, which allocates public funds to colleges and universities in support of Scottish Government priorities, has allocated up to £600,000 of funding over four years for each challenge area.

It is hoped the funds will help universities create broad, multi-disciplinary, cross-sector teams that will co-ordinate and support bids for further, external research funding, enabling them to find solutions which benefit Scottish society in line with Government priorities.

Mr Hepburn said: “It was great to visit the University of Glasgow and announce the successful challenge areas as part of SFC’s new Alliances for Research Challenges (Arcs).

“Arcs will connect Scotland’s research excellence to Scotland’s national challenges and will build on Scotland’s unique collaborative ethos and our world-class universities to prime the Scottish landscape to respond to challenge-focused research funding opportunities.

“I look forward to hearing more as these Arcs progress and the innovative solutions being developed in areas ranging from healthy aging, quantum technologies, managing our food systems, and energy transition and sustainability.”

Mike Cantlay, chair of SFC, said: “Scotland has a world-leading research base, as confirmed by the recent UK-wide assessment of university research, and our universities are well placed to help us find solutions to some of the biggest challenges we face together.

“We are delighted to be supporting them to work collaboratively across subject disciplines and across institutions so that they are in a stronger position to compete for the necessary funding that will enable them to carry out research that will find solutions that are of benefit to us all.”

Sir Anton Muscatelli, principal of Glasgow University, said: “Scotland’s universities are a genuinely world-leading source of research and expertise that will play a central role in meeting the major social, economic and environmental challenges that we face in the 21st century.

“Playing our full role in tackling these national and international issues will require us to work together not just across institutions but across disciplines and the Alliances for Research Challenges will play a crucial role in facilitating this work.”