Science and the Parliament - 15 December 2017

Innovation, science and the economy are three inextricably intertwined concepts that are of huge importance to Scotland and the UK. Scotland alone plays host to many a science discovery and invention, some of which in turn have led to fundamental changes to society. And so, when IFST discovered that the theme for the 17thScience and the Parliament event was to discuss these three important concepts within Scotland’s capital city, the opportunity to attend was too good to miss.

The event, which is held in Edinburgh’s Dynamic Earth, next to the Scottish Government at Holyrood, has been an annual event running since 2000 and is organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry. It is designed to bring the Scottish Parliament and Government, and the Scottish science and engineering community closer together to meet, discuss and share issues of concern within the scientific fields. Previous themes include “Science and the general election” and “STEM education”. With the economic challenges that face the UK and Scotland post Brexit, it is essential that the science and engineering infrastructure is maintained and enhanced, and so there is no better time than the present to work towards this goal. The science base within Scotland is wonderful; 77% of its work has been ranked as outstanding and this needs to be recognised for its economic benefit. The panel discussions between leaders in science and MSPs all placed huge emphasis on the need for researchers and businesses to collaborate for the continued development of innovation within Scotland. It was mentioned that implementing an industry strategy that allows for free flow of movement for information and people could well lead to a strong correlation between both parties. And that by thinking locally and working well as a nation, we can then start to focus on the wider, global environment. However, many a question regarding why innovation and business has been unsuccessful in the past remain unanswered. Some speakers suggested that better education, training, funding for research councils, transparency and access to intellectual property alongside research and business collaboration could well be the multi-pronged approach needed for economic success.

Although there was a lot of talk regarding innovation within industrial and technological sciences, the food and drink industry was not forgotten – it is the UK’s largest manufacturing and export category after-all. The presence of IFST at this event further emphasised our aim to promote the advancement and application of food science and technology. We were able to advertise this industry as one which has already adopted a collaborative approach between academia, business, education, research or Government Departments and Agencies; and that the development and sharing of knowledge that underlies food science and its technologies is not a novel idea, but something that is well facilitated.

As a student representative for IFST, being offered the opportunity to attend this event has opened my eyes to the true challenge that we, as a nation, face in the not so distant future. But it has not left me feeling uncertain about the industry that I wish to go in to, rather it has given me encouragement that action for change is happening. I strongly believe that Scotland and the food and drink industry can be leaders in sustainable economic growth both UK and abroad, and events such as this one need to be a common occurrence that are accessible to all and attended by many.

Chartlotte Kay, 4th Year Student, BSc Food and Consumer Science, Abertay University