A MAJOR plan to boost investment and create “thousands of jobs” in the growing technology sector in Scotland’s central belt has been unveiled by Strathclyde University.

The blueprint identifies “vast potential in the region for growth in enabling technologies, which covers fields including electronics, sensors, photonics, industrial biochemistry and quantum technologies.”

The Central Belt Science and Innovation Audit – one of numerous such audits commissioned by the UK Government – sets out a vision for doubling the region’s enabling technology asset base over the next ten years.

Enabling technologies are those which can improve the productivity and efficiency of existing industries.

The new Science and Innovation Audit has been produced by a consortium led by Glasgow Economic Leadership, which is chaired by Strathclyde’s principal, Professor Jim McDonald.

It envisions a three per cent per year increase in productivity by in the manufacturing and infrastructure sectors, initially in the central belt but with scope to replicate the gains across Scotland and the UK.

Also forecast is the creation of an internationally recognised cluster of enabling technology growth companies in the central belt.

McDonald said: “The enabling technology sector is relatively small in the Scottish economy, producing one per cent of GVA, but it produces 10 per cent of Scottish exports and invests 25 per cent of business enterprise research and development.

“The central belt is home to some of the UK’s most research-active universities and to a growing translational infrastructure, focused on responding to market demand and anticipating disruptive change.

“Our regional innovation system has developed remarkably over the last 15 years, from research pooling to innovation centres.

“With investment, this system can build a vibrant, internationally competitive photonics and quantum sensing cluster.

“Through technology integration, our enabling technology sector can help the digital transition of manufacturing in highly specialised application areas, creating thousands of jobs.

“And it can support our infrastructure sectors, particularly energy, to make big performance improvements through sophisticated sensing and control systems.”

Proposals for achieving the aims of the audit’s vision include co-investment by the UK and Scottish governments in the proposed National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland, as part of the UK High Value Manufacturing Network, in which Strathclyde University is a partner.

The plan also envisages establishing headquarters of UK Catapult centres – facilities to boost innovation and drive economic growth – in the central belt, and investment in the creation of a new, large-scale systems and integration centre to facilitate the rapid combination and testing of quantum and photonics technologies, along with the expansion of apprenticeships and work-based learning programmes.

There would also be strategic investment to extend the scope and linkages of Strathclyde’s Power Networks Demonstration Centre, based in Cumbernauld.

The audit outlines Strathclyde’s extensive role in shaping and supporting the enabling technologies sector.

Among research centres which Strathclyde hosts or is a partner in are the Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems, the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre, Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics and the UK Quantum Technology Hub In Quantum Enhanced Imaging.

The audit also highlighted entrepreneurial education offered by Strathclyde’s Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, named after Thomas Hunter.