Heriot-Watt University is a university in Scotland based in Edinburgh. The university takes pride in offering practical solutions both to day global challenges as well as providing appropriate education to many students. The society is highly committed in digging deep into the challenges facing the society, assessing them and structuring appropriate programmes to tackle the problems.
The various academic disciplines are designed with the existing challenges in consideration. The courses offered by the institution are therefore meant to provide solutions to the community as a whole.
The university brings together skills in interdisciplinary sections, each structured to handle a particular strategic theme. The themes are developed concerning what is viewed as the important problem affecting the society. These themes bring together expertise from many disciplines.
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.
Heriot-watt University is widely known in a vast number of research areas. Some of the vital fields of focus comprises of photonics, business education, petroleum engineering, financial mathematics and actuarial science, risk management, decoding and interpreting, and logistics. These courses are considered demand driven and play a centrals role in many economies in the world.
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 techn9ologies 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.
Focus On the Future Strategy
Focus on the Future is the ambitious strategy aimed to act as a blue-print in re-shaping Heriot-Watt University’s agenda. As outlined in the strategy, the university intends to realize a 50% growth in the academic base by the year 2015. Realizing such an ambitious move requires putting in place in the necessary mechanisms and work plan that must be followed.
As a leading university in Edinburgh, Scotland, the university is determined to demonstrate its leadership in science, technology, and business. The three areas of focus form the core business approaches that will give the institutions an advantage over the other institutions. The subject areas are aimed at addressing the challenges that globalizations presents to different set up of businesses and internationals organizations across the globe.
Multi-cultural diversity of the institutions enables the institutions to present the various modules of the courses aimed at addressing the challenges that such diversity may present. 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.
Having an outstanding reputation of providing working solutions to the many development challenges within the country as well as in the international circles, the university is obligated to sustain the record. This will be achieved through continuous quality assurance checks and by emulating other institutions around the globe.
Bearing in mind that meeting the clientele expectations is paramount, it will be essential for the organization to meet its obligation to the society. The institution has already set the foundation or the benchmark of the expectations that the society or people are expecting from it. The institutions ability to amicably address the challenges will be essential in its planning of the future undertakings.
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.
This is one of the major areas in which the university has concentrated her efforts. The strategy aims to adopt a cohesive and coordinated approach to research and learning activities in energy field as well as other related disciplines. 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 (Esty 2008).
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.
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.
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.
Major initiatives include:
- Optimizing discovery of sustainable gas and oil reserves with the aim of overcoming the global limitation.
- 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.
- School of built and construction undertakes research into architectural design which is intended to minimize energy loss in the buildings.
- Research programme at the International Centre for technology in Orkney on marine renewables with emphasis on marine environmental impacts.
- 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.
- The university’s doctorate engineering programme which includes the theme, with options in solar energy and enhanced oil and gas recovery
- A new master of science programme with emphasis in economics, business and management
- 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.
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.
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).
Environment and Climate Change
We cannot talk of development without addressing the environment we operate in. Environment and climate theme is in particular designed with the aim of understanding the environment and its impacts on the humanity. The strategy recognizes the fact that the issues of environment and climate have taken a centre stage on the global debate.
The impact of man on the environment and the climate change has increased with the rising industrial revolution. How can we balance delicate equation of industrialization and environmental degradation? Industrialization, developmental activities such as agriculture have resulted into far reaching impacts on the environment and this is threatening the global future economy (Agrawala 2003).
The strategy aims to address this challenge by conducting research to adjusting to low carbon lifestyle. For low carbon lifestyle to be this to be realized, it will take joint efforts of specialists from diverse fields of research to put ideas together.
Biologists’ work is combined with techniques developed by chemists and physicists. Mathematicians’ and stasticians’ skills are also brought on board to build theoretical models that enhance understanding of data and transforming these diverse ideas into something meaningful that we see the institution achieve some of its core values (Adger 1999).
Nevertheless, this theme faces some challenges. The complexity nature of the environment and the chain of interacting factors makes difficult to understand changes that cause them. Another challenge lies in the difficulty in developing knowledge and tools top reduce the negative effects and adjusting our practices.
In order to achieve this theme, a number of initiatives were put in place namely:
- comprehensive investigation in both physical and ecological set up of the environment and the change processes at work.
- focus on marine ecosystem and biodiversity;
- conducting research into formation and storage of gas,
- developing a model and undertaking an analysis on the population processes in ecology which entails an understanding of predator and prey relationship. The model also aims to predict how the relationships among different organisms lead to diseases and how it can be controlled.
- Formulation of a new master’s degree programme, which focuses on climate change and the control measures. The course targets students from various disciplines and incorporates inputs from actors the university.
- construction of a multi-disciplinary centre, which aims at taking advantage of the existing partnership with the external collaborators within the area of marine sciences.
This center will also attract immense interests of stakeholders who will focus at reducing the negative impacts of climate change. This theme targets at bringing about change in technology use, social, as well as behavioural aspects (Bojö& Reddy 2003b).
One of the biggest challenge facing human being and the entire ecosystem survival is indeed the factor of climate change (environmental degradation). The importance of this subject accrues from the fact that it affects all the nations around the world.
However, the poor are at more risk as compared to the rich. The impacts of climate change expose million of peoples to poverty and hunger as variations in weather and consequently climate affects food production and those who rely on agriculture are the most hit (Adger 1999).
For there to be any meaningful development, the poor must be supported to overcome the challenges brought about by climate change. Many organizations especially, those interested in development, IFAD, for instance, climate change has a unique significance. Their mission is to empower people by helping them to overcome poverty (Bojö & Reddy 2002).
Economies of many developing countries across the world depend on agriculture. It is the mainstay for the poorest rural households. However, more than any other sector, it is the most directly affected by the issues of climate change (Abramovitz 2001).
This further complicates the livelihoods of the rural poor who have no capacity to overcome the impacts of climate change. This is because they lack access to financial opportunities that would otherwise enable them to devise alternative means of survival (Boju et al., 2004).
Failures in crop production, deaths in livestock, as result of drought are causing enormous economic losses among farmers. In effect, this has been marked by escalation in food prices and hence deterioration in food security.
The situation has not been helped by the steadily swelling in the world population, especially in the developing world, which means high demand for food (Bruci 2004). FAO estimates project that, for food production to meet the demand of the rising population, it will need to double by the year 2050 (Githego et al., 2000).
It is projected that deforestation and poor agricultural practices collectively make up approximately 26 to 35 per cent of total greenhouse gas discharge in the environment. On the other hand, agriculture and forestry can play a major role in handling the challenges of climate change.
“Enhanced land management applications for instance rehabilitation of ruined land, agro forestry and high-quality agricultural practices can to a large extent contribute to bringing down the amount of greenhouse gas discharged in our environment” (Department for International Development 2004a, p.5).
Involvement of the poor rural people in introducing sustainable development programme is key in overcoming challenges of climate change. A good number of this general population deal with huge tracks of forests and land and for that reason they can be essential participants in “natural resource management and carbon sequestration” (Department for International Development 2004b, p. 6).
They are from time to time the caretakers of the natural or usual resource base and can put in significant information in the preservation efforts (Mani & Sears 2006).
According to the Department for International Development (2004d, p. 7), carbon-trading know-how be required to be go with with reimbursement programmes for the rural poor with respect to their ecological actions, which add to carbon sequestration or confiscation that limit carbon gas discharge in the environment.
This will have an important role in addressing the climate change challenges that the globe is struggling to solve. The compensation program is aimed at allowing the rural to develop the essential carbon sinks that will help in reducing the level of carbon in the atmosphere and thus reduce the effects of global warming.
The approach also helps in reducing the Green house gases that have been associated with the depletion of the vital ozone layer. This is believed to be one of the most dangers that global warming has presented to survival in the planet. The attempts to reduce and minimize the emissions will be crucial in ensuring that the planet will be able to support life in the near future.
Sustaining soil and water preservation actions, presenting inducements to farmers and all other parties involved in sustainable or long-term production practices, and gratifying for carbon seizure or sequestration actions and avoiding or reducing deforestation, part of continued attempts to tone down the negative effects of climate alteration (Gornitz 1995).
“In responding to the growing effects of climate change, IFAD is in the process of integrating adaptation and mitigation into its activities” (Dale 1997, p. 20). By giving attention to the needs and situations of the poor rural people during the planning process, risks and impacts of climate will be minimized at the same time achieving progress in development.
Life and Physical Sciences Interface
The university’s collaborations among the life sciences and physical sciences have grown tremendously in the recent past. This has been facilitated by knowledge sharing opportunities and techniques (Bradley 2006).
The approach aims to tackle this subject matter by intensifying the institution’s ability in “advanced bio-molecular science which is appropriate to human biology, and to develop and further exploit the relationship of this and related life science activities with other science and technology interests” (Energy Sector Management Assistance Program 2007, p. 5).
- Leading an international team using micro array technology to study the interaction between the environment and genes. The objective of this research is to discover ways of dealing with metabolic diseases. This is in essence supposed to promote safe ageing by enhancing healthy muscle functioning (Bojö & Reddy 2003a).
- Collaboration between clinicians and biomedical scientists to conduct investigations into the causes of tumors and slow healing of wounds affected patients. This is to be achieved mathematical modeling aimed at providing the insight and hence an understanding of cell biology.
- Development of new pharmaceutical products, which is long-term industrial product and has high efficacy
- Leading a major collaborative programme with the aim of developing new technologies to initiate the automatic production of embryonic cells
- A partnership of chemistry experts, chemical engineering specialist, and other experts in the complex-scale-up of bio-chemical processes for industrial scale production. More research in polymer synthesis and applications
- Developing special imaging techniques (hyper spectral ophthalmic) which allows for monitoring of the body development and to also give highly diagnostic information.
- Using ultra-high speed imaging techniques to measure how the behavior of insects as it flies. This information is then used in developing an improved aircraft.
- Development of automatic cell screening technologies gadgets. This is intended to help in studying the functioning of individual cells.
- Continued collaboration among different disciplines. This is to enhance adaptation of the laboratory research findings to the industries.
- Increase in learning opportunities through formulation of new MSc programmes in life sciences, engineering, physical sciences, and mathematics and computer sciences.
Risk and Modeling
Being at the centre of modern living, Risk and its management form an important theme of the Focus on the Future strategy. The goal of the theme is to bring together the disciplines of actuarial mathematics, statistics, psychology, computer science, and engineering to be able to deal with mathematical and behavioural aspects of risk and uncertainty (Department for International Development 2004d).
The approach adopted by the university aims to take advantage of the available experts in such fields as actuarial mathematics, probability and other appropriate disciplines that deal with uncertainty.
The proposed collaborative approach intends to take into consideration quantitative behavioural and social aspects associated with the problem and hence find solution as well as formulate control strategies. The proposed interdisciplinary approach is to ensure that the real problem and risks are handled (Hannah & Midgley 2002).
The approach is an improvement of the traditional methodology, where calculation and risk presentation was exclusively based on mathematics. The interdisciplinary approach combines elements of behavior and society in defining a problem and result into a workable solution and strategies to avoid similar situations (Department for International Development 2004c).
- The university continues to build on the existing excellent record in high impact research which makes use of probabilistic approach in solving problems affecting the modern world
- Experts in the discipline of quantitative risk management develop techniques that can be used in determining the nature of risks as well their occurrence frequencies
- Continued involvement in the global assignment in genetics and insurance research centre provides a foundation for the development of a model that aids in understanding of human genetics on insurance markets
- Construction of a major centre staffed with experts in various fields provides an opportunity for continued research in risks.
- The institution provides training and advice to the public, business community as well as the government on how to manage risks. This acts to improves the people’s attitude towards risks and gives them confidence when they are faced with uncertainty.
- Promotion of opportunities provided by the training in risk management and applying such skills in other areas such as fund investment
Infrastructure and Transport
The university recognizes the increasing pace at which the urban population is accelerating. It is estimated that the current population proportion in urban centres is more that 50% and it is projected to exceed 60% by the year 2030(Hill et al., 2002).
Such an increase in population is expected to put immense pressure on the available facilities and hence need expansion to meet the unprecedented demands. More and bigger population means more mouths to feed, many children to educate, increased demand on transport, increased demand for jobs from the youths, increased demand for sanitation, as well as demand for a clean environment.
Given its vantage capacity, Heriot-Watt University is committed to take the lead in confronting these global challenges. The strategy for this theme is to bring together professionals from various academic fields such as those in the field of Schools of the Built Environment; Management and Languages, and Engineering and Physical Sciences so as they can work as team.
The interdisciplinary collaboration brings together a team of internationally recognized experts. The professionals range from infrastructure designers to consultants in micro and micro management.
Major initiatives include:
- To lead UK research effort in flood modeling and coordinating of flood risk management through collaboration of experts within the university and other public organizations.
- The institution also undertakes to investigate and address important issues relating to freight distribution in the Logistics Research Centre in the school of Management and Languages.
- Professionals and other experts in energy systems are committed to designing and development of automotives and aircraft engines as well as the instruments monitoring instruments.
- Professional and governmental exchange partnership between the Scotland and China governments is promoted by the Centre for Chinese and Urban Studies, leads to a long-term mutual benefit to the citizens of the two countries.
- The Logistics Research Centre in the School of Management and Languages is committed to working on freight distribution and research to reduce emission of carbon dioxide by increasing efficiency in transporting goods through improvement of highways and road systems. Proper planning which has ensured meaningful and functional facilities at all time has reinforced this.
- Development of research on specialized infrastructural materials which are able to detect their own state and in effect give necessary warning to avoid any likely harm to the people or negative environmental impacts.
- The continued research into optical fibre sensors makes it possible to for long-term structural monitoring systems, which are capable sensing any small strain over along period of time in civil engineering structures.
- The development of postgraduate programmes on city planning and design, transport and management when combined with the current programmes, they reinforce each other making it easier for the transfer of knowledge in offering practical solution s to the community
- The availability of international MSc programmes through distance learning module makes it easy to incorporate ideas from other countries affected with similar situations
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).
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).
This has also attracted funding from donors, sponsors, and stakeholders in the industrial market (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007). 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).
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