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Research and Innovation Shape Industry and Create Green Jobs of Tomorrow

Dr Gillian Murray


Research and innovation
Heriot-Watt University’s Deputy Principal Dr Gillian Murray says that universities can contribute to the world’s green economic recovery and help governments to consider a ‘green jobs’ transition.

As the world strives to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, academics are playing a huge role in exploring how research and innovation is catalysing industries and framing the jobs of tomorrow – through artificial intelligence, robotics, net zero, energy and health.

Academics are developing research and innovation that contributes to and drives forward solutions to global challenges. Reimagining a new future that places a sustainable, green economic recovery at its core – driving innovation, job creation and talent development – will be integral to global economic recovery.

One example is the Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre (IDRIC), led by Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer of Heriot-Watt University. IDRIC aims to help companies transition away from traditional carbon fuels into low carbon infrastructures.

At our Research Centre for Carbon Solutions, we have a team of over 50 researchers helping to deliver innovation for the wider deployment of low-carbon energy systems. This includes research related to carbon capture, conversion, emissions control and low carbon fuels.

We take an interdisciplinary approach and rather than sitting in silos, we believe in close collaboration with industry and business to accelerate the delivery of solutions

With some of the most ambitious climate change targets in the world, Scotland is becoming an attractive place for young people interested in being part of the solution to the climate crisis.

Our students have unique access to research and innovation programmes being developed by our world-leading academics. Our ambition is to leave a legacy of future leaders who will continue working on ensuring sustainability for coming generations.

Scotland’s climate goals

Scotland aims to hit net zero by 2045 and also has a challenging interim target of 75% reductions in emissions by 2030. Collaboration and innovation are key for meeting our net zero targets, and most importantly, we need to develop the skills needed for our net zero future.

The country has found many ways of contributing towards solutions to the climate emergency, from deploying renewables to generate electricity, to leading on the data analysis to measure effects on the climate.

Many challenging sectors remain, like energy-intensive industries, transport – creating a new aviation fuel that’s carbon neutral – and also the decarbonisation of heat.

By sharing our learning, we are contributing to the world’s green economic recovery and helping governments consider how to manage the transition to ‘green jobs’, an area of focus at COP26. The research and evidence we are working through will shape society and economies at local and global scales.

Post Covid the challenge of climate emergency has been fused with rapid digital transformation. Our National Robotarium, a world-leading research facility for robotics and AI, has developed technologies that are already changing our lives, and again, it is important to understand how to upskill and reskill the workforce to adapt to a high-tech future.

The work of robotics and AI

Research is already showing the enormous potential for robotics and AI to complement and support human roles across a multitude of disciplines.

The current practical applications of these technologies are wide ranging, touching all industries and sectors.

One of our key projects, the ORCA Hub, is supporting our transition to net zero through collaborating with the offshore energy industry, our research is exploring how to use robots to safely inspect, maintain and repair platforms, wind turbines, and other infrastructure, guided by human experts on ships or back on shore.

Carrying out these inspection and maintenance tasks, robots have the potential to work in hazardous environments like offshore, reducing the risks of putting divers into the water or asking workers to operate at height on wind turbines.

Universities like ours have a responsibility to support the development of the skills needed for the future workplace. We will need to build a new generation of engineers and operators able to understand robotic technology and functionality, for industry to successfully deploy robotic solutions.


In response to this we have launched, with support from the Scottish Funding Council, new upskilling courses in digital transformation. The innovative courses can be stacked to achieve a Masters qualification or used as stand-alone knowledge refreshers.

Research and innovation is fundamental to spark novel ideas and create the innovative products of the future. University academics are at the forefront of driving global recovery and growth by reimagining the future and exploring how to achieve solutions to address global challenges.

The result? We’re helping to shape both the industries and jobs of the future, while defining the skills, lifelong learning and entrepreneurial mindsets needed from the global workforce to grow future economies.

Heriot-Watt University is showcasing its expertise at Expo 2020 Dubai until 31 March 2022. On 8th December 2021, the University is hosting a day-long Future Skills Conference exploring purposeful education, industries and jobs of the future, alongside the skills, lifelong learning and entrepreneurial mindsets needed from the global workforce to grow future economies.

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Research and innovation

Dr Gillian Murray

Heriot-Watt University Deputy Principal, Enterprise, and Business

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