Science Jobs Boost for Western Scotland

Two exciting new projects being developed in Glasgow aim to raise the profile of science and technology and create economic wealth for the area. CityScience and the Glasgow Science Centre will bring numerous science-based job opportunities to Western Scotland as well as encourage small businesses to make better use of the local scientific expertise available to them.

The £60 million CityScience development has a target of bringing 3000 new jobs to Glasgow by attracting high-tech firms in the fields of software development, e-business, optoelectronics, advanced engineering, and life sciences. Strathclyde and Glasgow Universities will provide expertise in biotechnology, IT, and photonics to incoming businesses. Three-quarters of the 550,000-square-foot development space, a derelict site in the East End of the city, will be earmarked for research and development. The rest will provide new housing, shopping, and leisure facilities, allowing many people to live and work within the area. Henry McLeish, Scotland's First Minister, has called the project "one of the most ambitious and innovative science-based projects ever to be launched in Scotland." The first phase, a Software Centre, should be up and running by October next year. Gordon Kennedy, group operations director of Scottish Enterprise Glasgow, says, "The 21st century will provide exceptional challenges for a whole new generation of scientists. At CityScience they will be able to live and work on site, with no transport problems."

The Glasgow Science Centre (GSC), opening in spring 2001, aims to increase awareness of science and technology, both among the general public and within the business community. The £75 million Millennium project's futuristic, titanium-clad buildings, an Imax cinema, a 400-foot viewing tower, and the crescent-shaped Science Mall are all located at Pacific Quay on the south bank of the River Clyde.

The Science Mall will house four floors of exhibits. The ground floor will hold a welcome hall, shop, café, temporary exhibits gallery, business showcase area, small-scale Science Show theatre, Electronic Library, and Computer Lab. The three main exhibition floors will contain themed exhibits on scientific exploration. There will be areas within the building where visitors will be able to conduct their own experiments, such as extracting their own DNA, and a discovery area aimed at children aged 5 to 12. The Science Mall will also house Scotland's biggest planetarium and a virtual reality theatre. According to David Hughes of SGI, which is providing the computer technology for the virtual reality theatre, "it will be an amazingly powerful tool for communicating complex science principals and findings to the public ... as well as providing a powerful resource in Glasgow for business and research institutions for special events."

The centre will employ over 200 staff once fully operational. For those interested in science communication, Gillian Lang from the Business Motivation team suggests, "We will be looking for floor staff to help explain exhibits or run and present the science shows, so there will be job opportunities for people with a science background." Part-time science presenters to assist with the delivery of the school science programme are being hired and a number of scientists are already employed within the centre in various roles, including advising the exhibition teams.

Alasdair McNicoll, the Business Services manager, is in charge of the Business Motivation Programme. "We hope to increase awareness of scientific and technological developments, not just to businesses operating in those areas, but to all businesses which may not be aware of advances which could help them remain globally competitive," McNicoll tells Next Wave. The programme will work to increase dialogue between the business community and scientists and technologists through a number of activities.

The Innovation Showcase will allow scientists and technologists to bring new technologies or prototypes to the attention of businesses and entrepreneurs, and perhaps attract start-up funding for new companies. The "Science in Action" exhibits will feature current scientific and technological developments which are happening in Scotland. The Business Soapbox will be an opportunity for scientists, researchers, inventors, or entrepreneurs to air their views in a half-hour presentation slot. The Face to Face with Science programme will give business people the opportunity to visit selected science labs within Scottish universities to meet with researchers and technologists who are working on areas which could benefit their companies. McNicoll says, "it is hoped that the Business Motivation Programme will eventually create a bigger demand for scientists and technologists within companies."

To meet that demand, the intention is that by May 2001, GSC's Web site will hold a database of science and technology graduates from Scotland's universities and colleges. Once it is operational, McNicoll explained, students will be able to post their CV's via a standard pro-forma. These will be held for 1 year after graduation and businesses will be able to use this resource to recruit high-calibre science and technology graduates.

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