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University of Strathclyde Research Day

Alyn opened the University of Strathclyde’s 2012 Research Day.

The Research Day is a yearly event which is held to celebrate the quality of research across the university. The event was established in 2007, with the sixth Research Day taking place on 7th June 2012.

See his full speech below:

It's been great to wander round your Research Day and see the range of projects underway at Strathclyde. I'm really glad to be here to support you as you celebrate the world class research you're already doing in Glasgow and in Scotland, and indeed across the world.  I say that, but I'm also here to say thank you, and encourage you to do more still!

As mentioned, I'm Scotland's only representative on the European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy committee, a role I love. In Scotland, we've won the energy lottery; oil, gas, coal & renewables in every form known to humankind, and of course world-class research which will re-industrialise our country, heat our homes and help solve the world's energy needs. I'm incredibly lucky- I get to represent that in the EU.

And research; I get to see world-leading research up and down Scotland in all manner of exciting subjects. There is an international community of people basing themselves in Scotland to work across borders on the challenges facing humanity. In Scotland, we value knowledge, we respect learning and there's nobody not at least indirectly connected to science one way or the other.  Me, my neighbour's a research physicist at Heriot Watt, my brother in law was a research biochemist spun out of Aberdeen Uni, and now in San Francisco working on new drugs. I'm a simple lawyer to trade, and very much a generalist, but I'm always inspired when I get to meet people with a passion, people who have come to Scotland from all over the world to live and work here, becoming Scottish scientists and adding so much to our national life.

But my perspective is almost unique. I represent, to be fair along with five other people, the whole of Scotland in the European parliament, so I carry no torch for east, west, north or south, central belt or highlands. I get to go everywhere, and see what's going on.  And there is SO MUCH going on!  Often I'm introducing people to other people in the same institution! Often I'm telling people what is going on in the corridor down from them.  We've got out the habit in this country, certainly, our media has, of recognising just how well we're doing, and that's why events like this are so important to break down the silos which develop in our own heads.

Because when I say there's so much going on, the list of projects ongoing at Strathclyde make for an embarrassment of riches!

The work you've all been doing on photonics, power and energy, advanced engineering and manufacturing, and bio nanotechnology are putting together the building blocks of our future economy, not just in Scotland but worldwide. 

You're working on society's challenges now, here and worldwide.

The RISMAC project on evaluating cracked soil in earthworks, dams and mounds, a project with immediate application across the world.

The GEOEXCEL exchange between the EU and Latin America exchanging knowledge on the, let me get this right, 'geomechanical aspects of geohazards and climate change' again, clearly of immediate value in working out what sort of risks communities worldwide are from landslips, earthquakes, and preparing for natural disasters in our unstable world.

The MALAWI RENEWABLE ENERGY PROGRAMME, using Scottish developed technology to make vulnerable communities more energy independent, helping communities to help themselves.

And in your TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION CENTRE, a really exciting, new model of collaboration across industry, and across disciplines, and from that base in Glasgow, in Scotland, across borders too.

Strathclyde already has 95 EU funded projects through the current programme, the '7th Framework'.  We're working, right now, on the next one, Horizon 2020 which will build on FP7 but will be markedly different in focus.  Where FP7 was about research, Horizon 2020 will be much more about applied research, and involvement of industry, especially SMEs.  It will also be based loosely on a series of challenges facing humanity right now.  We're working on this right now, and crucially, how much budget will be put into it.

So you've had 95 slugs of cash encouraging you to work across borders, thank you and well done.  But I'll tell you frankly, there's an awful lot more where that came from.  At a time when domestic, however you define domestic, sources of funding are being squeezed, the EU budget for research has been proposed to massively increase. Now I'm in favour of a standstill EU budget, but there's ample scope for shifting budgets about to massively increase the Horizon 2020 funding.  Get into it.

Because I'll give you my favourite phrase that sums up what politics means to me, coined by our former Enterprise Minister Jim Mather: this is a team game.  If I win for you in Brussels then hopefully it makes your funding bid that bit easier, as you do what you do, you make my home city and my country a more exciting, international and internationalist place to be.  You are doing, what we want to see done.  We all win.

It was Isaac Asimov who said "there's a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere". Scotland's Enlightenment, dare I say it, our first Enlightenment, kicked off when experts were given the encouragement and support to work with experts from other disciplines, in other places.  Technology has brought us today to a point where ideas, knowledge, scientists yourselves, have never crossed borders more easily in human history.  We could be on the verge of a second Enlightenment on a global scale and you're the ones who'll make it happen.  Because ideas are international, knowledge is universal.

And if that sounds, a little, counterintuitive from an SNP member, look again, because you've misunderstood what we're about.  We want to build Scotland as a nurturing crucible for your talent, a secure and encouraging base from which to work across all the borders in the world, a magnet for global talent and a source of solid partnership.  People come to Scotland for a reason, people stay in Scotland for a reason, in our interconnected world you need your own voice, and I think Scotland will do better speaking for ourselves in the global fora we need to work in.  Because the challenges facing us today will not be solved by one scientist, or discipline, or university or country working alone, it'll take all the talents across all the borders, but you need a secure base to work from.  We're doing our bit to make sure that Scotland gives you that base. I'm doing my bit to make sure the EU's policy and budgets support you in your endeavours, and I've every faith that you, Scotland's scientists will do the rest.

Thank you.