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Heriot-Watt University Future Strategy Report


Heriot-Watt University

Based in Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University is the leading university in Scotland. The university has a special place both within the country as well as on the global map because of offering practical solutions the current global challenges without neglecting its basic mission of providing appropriate education to local and international students.

The institution is highly committed understanding the challenges facing the modern society, evaluating them and structuring their specialized programmes to address them.

The available programmes in the university are specifically suited to address current global challenges. The interest of the community plays a significant role in designing of the academic courses. The collaboration among professionals and staff from the various fields helps in finding long-term approach that is used in finding solutions to the prevailing challenges. For Herriot-Watt to stay on track as the leading university there is need for the management to have a guiding document outlining the activities that would lead to the realization of this end. Hence, focus on the Future strategy

Focus On the Future Strategy

This is an ambitious strategy whose aim is to act as a guiding document that stipulates that activities to be undertaken in order to achieve the university’s overall agenda. As described in the strategy, the university plans to achieve a 50% growth in the academic base by the year 2015. To realize such ambitious expectations, the university is required to put in place the necessary mechanisms and work plan that must be followed.

As an international institution, the university is committed to demonstrate its leadership in science, technology, and business. Herriot-Watt University intends to concentrate its investments in three focus areas. These subjects, it is believed will address the challenges that globalizations presents to different set up of businesses and internationals organizations across the world.

The institution enjoys a Multi-cultural diversity in terms of the courses offered. This in effect enables the university to address a range of global challenges as experts from different professional fields present different approaches to handling societal challenges. The strategy aims to raise the university’s standing from a national leading university to a recognized international institution that will attract foreign students.

This is to be reflected in the university’s commitment to produce professionals in all specialization. The institution is highly determined to continue growth and investment this in effect is expected to have the institution as a leading international university in key world issues.

The Need

The Need constitutes the initial stage in formulating a programme mandate. This entails a comprehensive assessment of the present organization’s state and the potential capacity for improvement. SWOT is one of the approaches that can be used identifying the need, opportunities, and threats of the institution. The technique helps in estimating the intended activities against the organization’s resources.

Strengths and future opportunities

As the leading university in Scotland, the institution is in better position to advance its objectives of providing solution to the challenges facing the community. The university enjoys the international community’ support as a result of its current track record in producing highest number of graduates in various practical disciplines such as engineering, Built Environment, mathematics and sciences.

The commitment of the university in providing practical solutions to the daily challenges facing the society and her determination to remain on top of other institutions makes it possible to attract support for its activities.

This is further boosted will by the continuous quality assurance checks and by emulation of other world-class institutions. The institution’s sensitivity towards the needs of the community and the readiness to fulfill these needs and those of the students makes the university to remain in the limelight. As a first step towards actualizing the set objectives, the institution has already set the benchmark of the community’s expectations.

The university’s strength also lies in the availability of human capital and financial resources. The institution’s achievements in producing respectable researchers play a significant role in attracting more professionals as well as students from across the planet. This therefore offers more opportunity to the university’s quest to realize the activities and objectives envisaged in the strategic plan.

The successful interdisciplinary relationship presents the university with the opportunity to apply a wide perspective in resolving the global challenges.

This is further strengthened by the wide the concentration of a range of proogrammes, which are in line with the priority themes as contained in the strategic plan. In addition, the concentration of resources on key areas that have a high magnitude impact on the community enhances the support from financial organizations as well as the organization.

The strength of the university is demonstrated in its existing collaborative programmes, which include ScotCHEM in chemistry and chemical engineering; The ScotgriD advanced IT network; The Scottish institute for Research in Economics; and Edinburgh Research Partnership in Engineering and mathematics (ERPem).

This acts to consolidate expertise in various disciplines where they bring on board their wide experiences in formulating solutions to the modern world challenges.

Scottish University Physics Alliance (SUPA)

This is an alliance, which brings together eight Scottish universities Physics. The major objectives is put physics in the forefront in the national strategy, also encourage collaboration among institutions, and promote efficiency and excellence within the discipline (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001, p.9).

In adopting a common approach in terms of staffing, training of the staff as well as issues of research and funding opportunities, the alliance brings together experienced experts as well as encourages training of upcoming scientists. The initiative has enabled Scotland to create the larges group of physics researchers in the UK (Griebenow 2006, p.13).

This has also attracted funding from donors, sponsors, and stakeholders in the industrial market (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007, p. 9). The alliance promotes the major themes, which are of great importance to the Scotland economy as well providing solutions to the global challenges.

Such areas that provide solutions to global interests comprises of “energy, physics and life sciences, astronomy, condensed matter and materials physics, nuclear and plasma physics, photonics and particle physics” (Kishore 2007,p. 7 ).

Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA)

This alliance aims to expand Scotland’s research excellence in Informatics and Computer Science. The Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA) bring together researchers within computer science and informatics.

The purpose of the partnership of these different fields is to merge and make stronger “Scotland’s ranking as the global researcher informatics and computer sciences key player” (Buchmann & Nabhan 1996, p. 6).

Strategic Fit

The researchers at Herriot-watt University are involved in numerous research initiatives. Among these important disciplines, include photonics, business education, petroleum engineering, financial mathematics and actuarial science, risk management, decoding and interpreting, and logistics. The uniqueness of these programmes lies in the fact that they demand driven as they play a major role across global economies.

The needs to address the challenges presented the climate changes effects and development of the appropriate models that will help in risk management by the companies and organizations will be handy in the present age work places.

We have also the issue of the existences of various technologies that are developed by different firms, and some may be in a form that may not be easily useful to some clients, it will be essential and necessary to translate some the stuff into a format that they are easily disseminate to the end users. The institution aims at addressing such discrepancies.

The proposed strategy aims to provide the institution with the direction to concentrate further on interdisciplinary research and teaching. The blue print not only targets the community where it operates but also targets to address the challenges on a global scale. Such an approach is aimed at widening the pool from which the institutions is aiming to work.

The ability to address issues in the global scale will enable the institutions to have representatives and partners across the globe and thus have the masses who subscribe to the ideology of the institutions and this will give the institutions the necessary boost needed to survive in the competitive market place.

The Strategy is structured to meet the needs of Scotland national economy at the UK at large. By virtue of its position, the universities are at the core of the country’s economy. The university achieves this by investing in research activities, concentrating on the agenda for skills development and advocating for innovation, entrepreneurship among many other developmental issues.

The element of knowledge sharing and exchange is also highly valued as it is considered as an avenue to development of human capital, which translates into improved growth and productivity. Students are encouraged to share ideas, cultural diversity, and any other element that is considered fruitful.


The major areas of concern targeted by change include; energy, environment, transport and infrastructure, risk and modeling, and the interface of the life sciences with the physical sciences and technology.

The institution enjoys an excellent record of accomplishment in offering interdisciplinary and user-centred research. Such attainments will have an important input in enabling the organizations attain its goals. The targeted areas also hope to address the global market demands in those sectors and the need for the specialist in various fields.

The areas targeted will be vital in addressing the ever-growing demand for the specialist in the energy sector, the environmental advisors, the transport and infrastructure planners , risk managers and modelers and those with the potential to create a harmony between the life sciences and the technological and physical sciences.

Such gap reduction mechanisms between practice and science will be helpful in addressing some of the challenges that human race is facing in the planet


Energy, not only continues to be one of the most important thing, but also the most challenging in the world, at present and in the future. The ever-increasing energy demand, global climate and environmental change, and the constraints in energy supply continue to impact businesses negatively.

As the principle of the university in dealing with subjects that are of great concern to the community, Energy comprises one of the key themes for the Focus of the future strategy. The strategy aims to adopt a cohesive and coordinated approach to research and learning activities in energy field as well as other related disciplines (Esty 2008, p. 23; Ackerman & Robert 1970, p. 350).

The Focus for the future Strategy demonstrates how this transformation in the energy utilization can be achieved. This will entail research activities that would lead to production of sufficient energy from renewable sources by 2015. The broad objective is to meet the electricity needs of more than 26 million homes in the UK and to satisfy the current heating needs of about 4 million homes (Abramovitz 2001, p. 4).

Energy Conservation

There are many opportunities world over, for conserving energy. Energy saving programmes can be applied at home, school, office, and industries. Adoption of efficient energy saving techniques would result in cost-saving and energy-saving innovations. The other advantage of conserving energy is the reduction in pollution as a result of embracing environmental-friendly energy sources (Bruci 2004, p. 13; Dale 1997, p. 753).

This in effect means that the government can save money that would otherwise be used in controlling pollution or treating healthy-related cases that may emerge as a result of contaminated environment. Global reduction in the green house gas emissions translates to reduced warming effects (Agrawala et al., 2003 p. 20; Bojö et al., 2004, p. 16).

The energy saving initiatives may be undermined by such challenges as high cost of initial investment. This is particularly a common trend at the community level. However, such hurdles can be overcome by the intervention of the government through subsidy programmes

Renewable Energy

For a country to meet the challenge of climate, change there is need to save carbon in all the sector of the economy. This implies adoption of renewable energy The Focus to the Future Strategy outlines how we this goal of 15% of energy from renewables can be realized by 2015.

Investment into such research, the university will help the country to lead the industries of the future. Recent studies reveal that the renewable energy sector could support up to half a million jobs in the UK by 2020.

This strategy will help to protect the security of UK’s energy system. The described activities could see the country’s use of fossil fuel reduced by around 10%, and so reverse the current trend of increased import of fossil fuels. This will also lower the demand for imported gas, which is otherwise projected to increase by 20-30% by the year 2020.

The combination of skills from experts in various fields is aimed to enhance meaningful research findings that can be utilize at both national and international level

The institutions strength to adopt the strategy lies in its richness in facilities such as sufficient educational capacity and availability of research resources. This is also because of government and other private funding in research programmes like in petroleum engineering works, which has enabled the institute to expand its research facilities and acquire advanced machinery for the same (Ackoff 1970, p. 44).

One core objective of the strategy is to reduce over-reliance on fossil fuels without necessarily doing away with it. The strategy aims to diversify energy sources. As the main recognized international university in Scotland, Heriot-Watt University intends to take the energy educational opportunities beyond the national boundaries. It targets all parts of the world especially the countries where increasing demand for energy constitutes national agenda (Bojö& Reddy 2003c, p.6).

As part of the strength for the university as concerns this theme, is the increasing awareness among the public and the government on the importance of renewable energy. Currently, the use of renewable electricity in the UK has doubled last five years. Similarly, onshore wind capacity has also recorded tremendous growth. The UK now leads as the country with the offshore wind power.

More opportunity for success in this theme is enhanced by the availability of unharnessed natural resources. Two separate reports confirmed that the country has the largest capacity for wind energy in Europe, and one of the greatest natural wave power resources in the world (Bojö& Reddy 2003b, p.9).

Renewable Industry

To sustain the initiative of production of renewable energy, there is need to maintain and sustain a strong industry. This is to guarantee delivery of the supply chain and the necessary unparalled deployment.

This is so as to maximize both the economic and creation of employment opportunities for the UK. A strong industry will also be able to take advantage of economies of scale and hence remain at the forefront of the global competition in the low-carbon economy.

Strategic Initiatives

  1. Investment in increased development of voltaic systems, which have the significant high capacity to produce electricity. This is in effort to satisfy the steadily increasing demand. The strategy is informed by the projections indicating that oil reserves will be exhausted in the next 100 years. Alternative sources of energy such as voltaic systems are inevitable
  2. Accelerated efforts in discovering of sustainable gas and oil reserves so as to fill the global energy deficit
  3. Increased funding research undertaken by School of built and construction to conduct investigations into architectural design with the objective of minimizing loss of energy in the buildings.
  4. Undertaking specialized research initiatives at the International Centre for Technology in Orkney on marine renewables with the aim of establishing their impacts on marine environments.
  5. A collaboration of professionals in energy technology to address the sensitive issues in the energy sector such as security in supply, and the resulting influence on the cost of living and the eventual impacts on the environment. This is cognizant of the fact, the cost and availability of energy directly affects the living standards of the society.
  6. Construction of a world-class pilot plant to support experiments on low carbon buildings such as the eco-village. This is will be strategy to reduce overall emission as agreed in the recent G8 summit.
  7. A postgraduate course in the areas of economics, business and management
  8. It is also anticipated that formulation of the doctorate engineering programmes will effectively incorporate the theme and conduct comprehensive research that will bring on board other options such as solar energy and increased efforts in oil and gas recovery.
  9. In efforts to promote information exchange, coordination, and collaboration among the players, a virtual Academy centre was constructed. The centre advances the University’s interests in energy resources and production, capturing and storage of carbon, efficiency, and utilization of energy.

The existing partnership among the researchers from various disciplines constitutes the university’s capacity to advance research and hence provide recommendations to the energy sector. This is further strengthened by the mutual working relationship between the institution and the energy organizations as well as other key players in the industry (Kurukulasuriya & Mendelsohn 2006, p. 6; Adger 1999, p. 249).

In order to encourage information exchange, coordination, and collaboration among the players, a virtual Academy centre was constructed. The centre advances the University’s interests in energy resources and production, capturing and storage of carbon, efficiency, and utilization of energy (Mani& Sears, 2006, p. 7).

As a part of its strength, there are significant partnerships among the researchers. This is also demonstrated by the connectivity of the institution to major energy organizations and other researchers outside the university. The institution’s capacity in commercial knowledge transfer to the energy economy allows it to further develop and extend their technical abilities (Kurukulasuriya & Mendelsohn 2006, p. 9; Allison 1971, p. 521).

The role of the Government

The role played by the Government in any development or research initiative determines its success or failure. The government’ influence can be felt in terms of policies, laws and other form of regulations. For instance, the government can support the initiative by increasing the proportion of supply of electricity from renewable sources. The government can further show its commitment through exemption from the Climate Change Levy.

Such move would see the renewable electricity initiative save close to £1 billion a year. Provision of incentives through a Renewable Heat Incentive will motivate Households, communities, public services and business to invest in the production of their own renewable energy. This should be combined with ’Feed-In Tariffs to provide guaranteed payments to the generators of renewable energy (Bojö& Reddy 2003a, p.6).

Strategic Role for Government

For this ambitious plan to materialize, the Government has to play its rightful role. This can be achieved by putting in place a sound and sustainable long-term regulatory and financial policy so as to facilitate the delivery of increase in renewable energy.

This will also require partnership of the government and other stakeholders to avoid conflict of interest that may otherwise undermine the deployment of renewable energy technologies (Anderson& Paine 1975, p. 815; Anderson& Paine 1978, p. 612).

In essence therefore, the following should be provided:

  1. increased financial support, targeting investment into research activities, technologies as well as the community and other stakeholders;
  2. quick delivery, which entail swiftness in the planning system, chains of supply, grid connection and sustainable energy;
  3. A committed and strong push on new technologies and resources. This to result in the reduction in cost of the technology (Aharoni 1967, p. 45; Department for International Development 2004a, p. 5).

Financial Support

For this strategy to succeed it requires sufficient financial commitment. Following its importance, such initiative cannot be left to the forces of market economy.

This can be achieved through a number of efforts such as:

  • Expansion and extension of a long-term incentive programme for major renewable energy development projects. In this case, the support should target the Renewables initiative to achieve at least 30% renewable electricity by 2015. This will encourage continued support for more formalized large-scale, electricity generating initiatives.
  • Introduction of clean renewable energy both household consumption or for business purposes
  • Amendment or replacement of the Renewable Transport Fuel Initiatives and instead impose an obligation with the capacity to produce 10% renewable energy used in transport by 2020, depending on sustainability controls.
  • Efforts should also be made to tackle the current pressures resulting from the global financial crisis. This can be facilitated by funding from the European Investment Bank for renewable and other energy projects. This will ensure that the renewables industries maintain finical stability to support its deployment of technology as well as provide the supply chain.


The strategy intends to realize a 30% of the UK’s electricity generated from renewables. Most of this energy is expected to come from wind power. On and offshore, biomass, hydro, and wave tidal

Of the heat generation, 12% to come from renewables. This is to come from biomass, biogas and heat pump sources from homes, businesses and communities all over the UK

Renewables to constitute 10% of the transport energy. This is to reflect an improvement of 8.6% increase. This is to be combined with the use electric vehicles

Financial support arrangements to be put in place so as to promote the renewable energy efforts. This is estimated at a cost of £30 billion between now and 2020. the efforts should also target to extend the renewable initiatives for large-scale generation and to reverse the Renewable transport Fuel Obligation to promote the use sustainable biofuels

To increase delivery and eradicate barriers. This can be achieved through establishing of a renewable energy office to guide the delivery and set targets. A good planning system and a Strong supply chains should be put in place to support the delivery of the objectives.

Collaboration among partners should also be emphasized and concerns of stakeholders taken into consideration. This should also be accompanied with efforts to protect the environment through the application of necessary controls(Department for International Development 2004b, p. 7)

Increased investment in new technologies and improved energy sources, which are in line with the renewable energy goals, should be reinforced. This should cover such areas as tidal and wave generation, advanced biofuels.

Efforts should also be made to create new opportunities for individuals, communities, and business to take advantage of renewable energy.

Introduction of new, simple mechanisms to promote investment through business, communities, and households in small-scale renewable energy generation sectors (Department for International Development 2004c, p.6).

More funding should be made available to create awareness among the people who have no knowledge of the technology advising them on the importance of renewable energy and how they can start to generate their own energy.

Publishing of guidance materials on the methodologies those developers can adopt in sharing the benefits of the technology with the local communities (Aguilar 1967, p.70; Bojö& Reddy 2002, p.7).

Activities and Durations

Activities Duration
Optimizing discovery of sustainable gas and oil reserves with the aim of overcoming the global limitation Feb year 1 to Feb
year 2
Increased development of voltaic systems, which have the capacity to generate electricity. This is to keep pace with the steady escalating consumption. With expectations that oil reserves will be exhausted in 100 years to come, focus on alternative sources of energy such as voltaic systems is of great importance March year 2 to Dec year 3
School of built and construction undertakes research into architectural design which is intended to minimize energy loss in the buildings Jan year 3 to June year 3
Research programme at the International Centre for Technology in Orkney on marine renewables with emphasis on marine environmental impacts. July year 3 to June year 4
A team of professional in energy technology to deal with complex issues in energy such as security in supply, high living standards and the impacts on the environment. This is an area of great concern particularly when it comes to negative impacts on the environment as a result of current methods of obtaining energy. Feb Year 1 to Feb year 2
The university’s doctorate engineering programme which includes the theme, with options in solar energy and enhanced oil and gas recovery July year 4 to Jan year 5
A new master of science programme with emphasis in economics, business and management March year 2 to Dec year 3
A large pilot plant to support experiments on low carbon buildings such as the eco-village. This is will be strategy to reduce overall emission as agreed in the recent G8 summit July year 3 to June year 4


The strategy has led to significant growth in the forefront Institute of Petroleum Engineering. This has been characterized by increased academic capacity in non-fossil going by also by the number of students and other key players interested in the field. The strategy builds on the existing institution’s technical capabilities.

Adoption of this programme will result into production of clean energy. The initiative will also lead to growth in the UK economy by creating more employment opportunities. More than a half million people would be employed in the renewable energy sector as a result of investment in the sector worth £100 billion. It will also ensure increased security in the supply.

This will be accompanied by a reduction fossil fuel demand by about 10%. The initiative will also be a boost to the efforts to tackle challenges of climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than 750 million tonnes between now and 2030(Department for International Development 2004d, p. 12; Energy Sector Management Assistance Program 2007, p. 50).

It is estimated that decarbonization of energy together with the efforts to capture and store carbon will enable the UK to save more than 755 MtCO2 between now and 2030, of which 535 MtCO2 will help in meeting the Emissions Trading System caps and 220 MtCO2 will lead to reduction in CO2 reductions(Esty et al.,2008, p.13).


In spite of the numerous achievements made by the Institution, Herriot-Watt University may face significant challenges that may undermine the achievement of the outlined activities.

The fact that the university offers unique programmes and research opportunities that are not offered by any other institution could be a challenge in terms of risks and uncertainty. This accrues from lack of any similar work upon which the university may refer to make key decisions (Hill et al 2002, p. 71).

The important themes that constitute the ‘Focus on the Future strategy’, i.e. Environment and Climate change; Energy comprise sensitive subject across the world. This may require a delicate balancing in the formulation of strategies for them to be acceptable across board. These emanates from the fact that these subjects have been steadily on international debates without reaching any agreeable stand (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001, p. 27; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007, p. 15).

Efforts to protect the environment against climate change comes and a cost and brings even more risks that have to be addressed. It is estimated that the recently announced package in the UK plan of Low Carbon Transition that entails renewable energy strategy and other policies will lead to an average 6% increase in the current household energy bills by 2020. Together with the newly announced climate policies will see the figure increase to 8%( Githeko et al., 2000, p. 1136p; Gornitz 1995, p.17).

The Government also approximates that Renewable Energy Strategy alone would lead to a 15% increase in household electricity bills and a further increase of 23% in gas by 2020. This is in comparison to what they would have been without these initiatives.

However, the overall bill impacts of the Transition Plan are significantly lower because of inclusion of policies for increased energy efficiency, this leads to overall reduction in energy bills. Hence, reduce energy bills. The Government has also been in continuous action of ensuring the poorest and most vulnerable are protected (Griebenow 2006, p. 49; Hannah& Midgley 2002, p.264).

The increased generation as proposed by this strategy would also have an impact on the security of electricity supply. According to the analysts, however, the issues can be managed under existing plan to at least the year 2020; and on condition that the relevant generation of flexible fossil fuel remains economically profitable.

In addition, the key determinants of the amount of nuclear to be built are most likely to be a capital liability. Expectations of both fossil prices and there is a matter of risk taking.


Meeting the goals of this ambitious strategy renewable will not be free of challenges, as it will come at a cost. However, as Lord

Stern observed in his 2007 Review of the Economics of Climate Change the costs of not taking an action is in fact much unbearable. The programmes bring with it numerous significant benefits. The goal of the strategy is to realize maximum opportunities the environmental, economic and employment opportunities for the UK through use of renewables.

Objectives of the strategy are to make the university and the UK to be the leading option for internal investment and a world class centre of expertise in energy. This Strategy will result in the emergence of a UK low-carbon economy at the same time promoting energy security and mitigating the environment against climate change.

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