Dundee and Angus’ Digital Legacy

Karen Tocher, business tourism manager at Dundee & Angus Convention Bureau, takes a look at the influence digital innovators have had on the world…

There must be something in the water in Dundee that nourishes creative instinct. Digital pioneers from the city and surrounding area have, over the last 25-30 years, made great strides that have impacted UK and global industries – and they continue to do so to this day.

In 1991, DMA Design – now Rockstar North – unleashed a simple videogame into the world. That video game was the instant classic, Lemmings. Just six years later, the company would release Grand Theft Auto, which would go on to spawn a franchise that has revolutionised the computer games industry around the world.


More recently the city’s 4J Studios has been instrumental in the development of the immensely popular game Minecraft.

With such a strong digital pedigree, it’s no wonder that the city’s academic institutions are producing world-class digital experts who are leading the way in developing new and exciting technologies.

Abertay University’s dedicated computer games courses have spawned numerous projects which have gone on to affect the world around us, not just in the realm of entertainment. Following a game jam – where students are set a challenge and a finite time limit – Hyper Luminal Games and Droman Solutions Ltd were able to develop an interactive learning game for Police Scotland.

The technology mimics the process officers go through when seizing hardware in a cybercrime investigation, providing them with the latest guidance to ensure evidence isn’t corrupted or damaged.

Across the city, the University of Dundee is also using digital technology in new and exciting ways. MyWay Digital Health has spun out of research carried out at the university, building on the success of the My Diabetes My Way digital platform which provides users with advice and tools to monitor the symptoms of diabetes.

The James Hutton Institute, too, has made strides forward in the digital field, creating a soil map of Great Britain, allowing researchers to easily identify samples from across the country by their characteristics.

With the industry contributing £97 million to the local economy, and providing over 3,500 jobs in the region, it’s clear that digital innovators are here to stay in Dundee and the surrounding area; and that the ideas they dream up today will become the legends of tomorrow.

Major Surgical Innovation in Dundee and Angus

Medical innovation is big business in Dundee. Karen Tocher, business tourism manager at Dundee & Angus Convention Bureau, looks at the impact left by one of the region’s greatest pioneers…

Dundee has long been a breeding ground for medical innovation. Sir James Whyte Black, who developed the first beta-blocker drugs, earning him the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1988, began his academic career at University College, Dundee (now the University of Dundee).

Over the years, many other inspiring medical pioneers have called Dundee their home. One such innovator is Professor Sir Alfred Cuschieri, a trailblazer in the field of minimal access surgery. Arriving in Dundee in 1976 after a time in Liverpool, Professor Cuschieri developed innovative keyhole surgery techniques which are still in use to this day.

He says, “I had always been interested in cancer research and technology. I had started early studies on a type of surgery that does not open the individual and was fortunate to encounter a very important physicist – Professor Harold Horace Hopkins. He had a new type of telescope which would be ideal for my needs, as it was far superior optically to those available which had a poor resolution.

prof cuschieri at dundee science centre
Professor Cuschieri with a minimal access surgery simulator at the Dundee Science Centre.

“Another surgeon – Professor George Berci at Cedar Sinai Hospital in California – also agreed to work with me, and knew a small company in Germany that could help us. I met Karl Storz and he agreed to work with us.

“Two first-generation Hopkins systems were developed – one went to Dr Berci and one came to me, where I started diagnostic laparoscopy. I was then asked by a colleague in Liverpool to help with a haematological laparoscopic inspection and it was a revelation to me how important this technology would be.

“With the new scope the view was absolutely incredible, and so I started designing instruments for surgery which were also made by Karl Storz in Germany. That small company has now grown to a multinational business, which still to this day has a small company based in the grounds of Ninewells Hospital.

“Over a period of ten years, I carried out a lot of experiments at Ninewells Hospital to prove this kind of surgery was safe – operating from the outside of the body is more difficult than conventional open surgery as you can’t see your hands.

“And in 1986 I carried out the first operation – the removal of a gall bladder from a 52-year-old woman from Dundee. It had taken me over a year to find a patient that would agree to undergo an experimental new type of surgery!”

Professor Cuschieri went on to develop numerous devices and technologies to improve the keyhole surgery process and, with his team, began training surgeons from across the country – and he continues to make strides forward in medical technologies at the Institute for Medical Science and Technology in Dundee.

The city, he says, has always been open to innovation: “The main advantage of Dundee is that it has no pretention at all. If the idea is good, Dundee is open and you will find support. And you don’t have to fight the establishment. That’s the secret of Dundee, and that’s what made it possible for me to achieve my ambitions to develop a new type of surgery and the first surgical skills training program in the world in 1990.”

Dundee and Angus’ Marine Innovations Receive Legendary Seal of Approval

Situated on the Firth of Tay, Dundee is perfectly placed to be home to a multitude of marine innovations. Karen Tocher, business tourism manager at Dundee & Angus Convention Bureau, reveals all…

Dundee – the city of discovery: named not only for its world-class innovators, but also as the home of RRS Discovery, the locally-built research vessel which carried Scott and Shackleton on their first expedition to Antarctica.

Now a floating museum berthed in the city’s up-and-coming Waterfront – and host to numerous corporate events throughout the year – the ship represents a link between Dundee and Angus’ maritime past, present and future.

Although no longer a hub of shipbuilding, Dundee’s connection with maritime industries remains strong. The city’s academic institutions and private sector continue to find new and diverse ways to increase our collective understanding of the marine world.

Abertay University’s Dr Kimberley Bennet, for example, continues to improve our knowledge of marine life by studying the behaviours and biology of grey seal pups in the water nearby.

Her current research – in collaboration with the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews and researchers in Belgium – examines how man-made contaminants are absorbed into fat tissue.

This has important implications not just within the field of marine biology, but also in humans. The contaminants present in seals may also be found in humans, ingested through the food chain – and Kimberley and her team are investigating how this may be linked to obesity and humans’ ability to process fats.

But seals are not the only focus of marine research across the region. Researchers at the James Hutton Institute have collaborated with the Scottish Association of Marine Science to study another brand of marine life – of a plant-based variety.

The peppery flavour of pepper dulse, an edible seaweed popular with top chefs, has been under the microscope. The Institute has attempted to discover how location, growing environment and season impacts on changes in flavour of the seaweed, which grows along the west coast of Scotland.

And across the city, the University of Dundee brings its considerable wealth of expertise in engineering to the maritime world, offering leading courses in subjects including Marine Hydrodynamics and Ocean Engineering. The university is committed to inspiring and equipping the innovators of the future, impacting on the fields of coastal, offshore, subsea and naval engineering and architecture.

Which brings us almost full circle – back to the world of ships – at the Port of Dundee; a hive of activity servicing oil and gas and offshore wind installations. The port also offers facilities for those working in the decommissioning industry, impacting on the way in which we utilise the seas resources off the coast of Scotland.

From historic ships to present-day sea life, Dundee and Angus has a long history with the waters around it, inspiring innovation and advances in many related fields and once again proving that Dundee is where ideas become legend.

Reinventing the Wheel: Engineering Prowess in Dundee and Angus

Karen Tocher, business tourism manager at Dundee & Angus Convention Bureau, reveals all about Dundee and Angus’ engineering ingenuity…

The world we live in wouldn’t exist without engineers: the buildings we live and work in wouldn’t stand, the cars and planes we travel daily on wouldn’t run, and the phones and computers we rely upon to run our lives would be little more than expensive paperweights.

The field of engineering stretches back thousands of years to the invention of the wheel. And here in Dundee and Angus, it’s just been reinvented…

Abertay University has been working with Carruthers Renewables to develop the Carruthers Waterwheel – an innovative new design that is significantly more efficient than traditional waterwheels.

Whereas traditional waterwheels stop the water dead, to ensure a steady turning speed, this isn’t required in energy generation. The Carruthers Waterwheel is instead the first of its kind, harnessing both potential and kinetic energy by slowing the water down instead of stopping it.

The wheel has been designed to be able to be replicated across the world allowing for a multitude of uses, and its unique design enables it to be used in rivers which would not traditionally be able to house a waterwheel.

This waterwheel is just the latest in a long line of engineering innovations to come from Dundee and Angus.

Throughout history, the region’s engineers have made their mark on the industry around the world. Sir James Ewing, for example, worked in Japan before returning to his home of Dundee to become the first Professor of Engineering at the newly founded University College Dundee (now the University of Dundee). And Brigadier-General Sir Alexander Gibb – born in Dundee – served as Civil Engineer-in-Chief to the Admiralty and Director-General of Civil Engineering at the Ministry of Transport.

Engineering developments in Dundee and Angus, however, are not simply relegated to the past. Today companies like Rautomead Limited drive engineering technologies to new heights around the world. Established by Sir Michael Nairn and others in the late 1970s, the company has become the leading supplier of continuous casting technology for non-ferrous alloys, providing solutions for engineering projects across the globe.

The area’s academic institutions are also driving the field of engineering forward, allowing a new breed of engineers to take to the fore.


Students at DRIVE at the University of Dundee are racing to design, build, market and race a car in the global iMechE Formula Student competition, while Abertay University civil engineering student Stephen Brindle was instrumental in the construction of the V&A Dundee, checking each one of the building’s 5,000 fixing points.

It’s no wonder that the area’s academic pedigree in engineering is in good standing – Abertay University is currently ranked 8th in the entire UK for civil engineering.

From world leading technologies to academic excellence, engineering is at the forefront of industry in Dundee and Angus – once again proving that this is where #ideasbecomelegend.

Dundee & Angus: World Leader in Life Sciences

Dundee and Angus is a world leader in the field of life sciences – from drug discovery to agricultural biotechnology, the region consistently produces research which affects the life sciences industry across the globe. Karen Tocher, business tourism manager at Dundee & Angus Convention Bureau, sheds light on some of the region’s recent advances in the sector…


Dundee is known the world over for its contributions to the world of life sciences. The city’s three academic institutions – the University of Dundee, James Hutton Institute and Abertay University – have all produced research that has gone on to majorly impact the international life sciences community.

Dundee and Angus’ strengths lie in the sheer diversity of research being undertaken in life sciences.

The University of Dundee’s pioneering Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research and its Drug Discovery Unit, for example, are leading the way in bringing together the field’s greatest minds to develop drugs to combat neglected tropical diseases – those which perhaps don’t reap the same financial rewards as more common diseases but affect the lives of tens of thousands of people every year.

At the James Hutton Institute, research is being carried out in a variety of fields – the Institute’s expertise from Dundee is assisting the adoption of new root, tuber and banana varieties by breeders in Africa, while the International Barley Hub has developed an innovative system that allows the genetic characterisation of individual barley varieties.

One of the Institute’s most interesting developments, however, has been the development of a synthetic, transparent soil which can be used to examine the roots of plants. Useful for examining both the effects of pests and pathogens, and the natural growth processes of plants, the soil is combined with innovative imaging techniques to address global agricultural issues.

Most recently the technology has been used in a project funded by the BBSRC to investigate the effects of biofumigant plants could be used to protect crops from the likes of nematodes, which damage their roots.

Alongside the James Hutton Institute, Abertay University is amongst the academic institutes working with the Innovate UK project which aims to improve food safety standards in potato, cereal, bread and other food products.

And this investigation of food continues throughout other life sciences research in Abertay – PhD researcher Kateryna Tkachencko, for instance, is taking advantage of the university’s extensive microbiology expertise in examining suspected life-extending properties in homemade cheese and yoghurt from the Carpathian Mountains.

The strength of the region’s academic talent is backed up by a thriving life sciences industry. BioDundee is a partnership between academia and the private and public sectors, ensuring that the region stays ahead of the curve in new developments and technologies. Bringing together like-minded researchers and businesses, the partnership fosters a creative and dynamic work environment for improving Dundee & Angus’ life sciences offering.

The wealth of expertise and knowledge on display in Dundee and Angus has led to a number of high profile life sciences events being held in the region, including the World BioDiscovery Congress in late July which provided an opportunity for collaboration between scientists, policy makers, investors and industry representatives.

Events like these – and the world leading research taking place across Dundee and Angus – are once again proof that the region is truly where ideas become legend.

Alternative Fuels, Decommissioning and Policymaking: Dundee and Angus’ Legendary Energy Sector

From oil and gas to alternative fuels, Dundee and Angus is at the cutting edge of energy research. Karen Tocher, business tourism manager at Dundee & Angus Convention Bureau, examines some of the research and work being carried out that makes the region a leading light in the energy industry…

In 2017, renewable energy accounted for almost 30% of all energy generated in the United Kingdom and this figure is only expected to rise in the coming years.

All around the world, research is being undertaken to explore new, clean and green methods of producing energy – and Dundee and Angus continues to push boundaries and lead the conversation in a number of important fields.

Abertay University is part of the Scottish Biofuel Programme, which offers a free consultancy service on alternative waste disposal routes and options for converting biodegradable waste and matter into alternative fuel sources. Amongst the university’s work in this area is the Diageo-Abertay Knowledge Partnership Project, which investigates the suitability of malt whisky production by-products as viable resources for bioenergy production. Professor Joseph Akunna’s research, too, looks at how organic waste and seaweed can be converted into biogas.

The James Hutton Institute, too, works in the field of biofuels. Researchers there have developed tools which can help policymakers analyse the economics of renewable energy sources, including the production of biogas.

It’s in this area – policymaking – that Dundee is perhaps best known in the global energy industry. The University of Dundee’s Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, and its alumni – scattered across the globe – are responsible for advising some of the world’s biggest oil companies, governments, banks, and other organisations.

The university is also a partner in the Offshore Renewables Institute, which brings together academia and industry to develop global leadership in the delivery and implementation of offshore renewable energy.

This partnership between academia, public and private industry is also prevalent in other areas of Dundee & Angus’ energy industry. Energy Dundee is a strategic partnership between these fields which seeks not only to reduce the regions carbon footprint but also to advance the region’s offshore wind, oil and gas and decommissioning capabilities.

The Port of Dundee provides an ideal operations and maintenance base for many oil and gas and offshore wind installations, including the Neart na Gaoithe windfarm located 15.5km off the shore of Fife. Drawing on the region’s expertise in engineering and fabrication, the port has allowed the energy industry to flourish.

The port also offers facilities for those working in the decommissioning industry – an area which is become a major driving of economic growth for the region. At a conference held in Dundee just last month, Decom North Sea and Dundeecom – a new public-private partnership, called for further collaboration between the region’s industries to ensure that Dundee becomes the UK’s premier centre for excellence in decommissioning.

From developing the latest renewable energy sources to working with more traditional oil and gas production and policymaking, Dundee and Angus continues to prove itself as a region of innovators and forward-thinkers.

And like all great innovators, Dundee and Angus’ energy champions – and their incredible ideas – will go down in legend.

Art Meets Science in Dundee & Angus’s Vibrant Creative Sector

Dundee is a hotbed of creative expression and ingenuity. Karen Tocher, business tourism manager at Dundee & Angus Convention Bureau, looks at the creative innovations that have gained the region its reputation for world class design and creative endeavours…

Dundee in Minecraft
Dundee in Minecraft. Image supplied by 4J Studios.

Pablo Picasso once said that “every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Spend some time in Dundee and Angus, however, and you’d argue that there is no such problem.

In 2014, Dundee was named the UK’s only UNESCO City of Design. It’s an accolade that the city holds dear, recognising the significant impact its inhabitants have made on the creative industries. This reputation for excellence is reflected most in the selection of the city to become home to the first museum of design built outside of London: the V&A Dundee, which opens on September 15.

The Beano and The Dandy – comics loved by children up and down the UK and beyond – have their roots here in Dundee, while the city’s ever-growing videogames industry has given birth to some of the world’s best-selling games, including Lemmings, Grand Theft Auto and Minecraft.

But it is not just the area’s most famous exports that have rocked the creative world.

Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design – part of the University of Dundee – has created waves in the art and design world. Ranked #1 in the UK for design and crafts – and #1 in Scotland for art and design – the college is a bustling hub of artistic endeavours.

From fine art and design to innovative collaborations with biomedical sciences and underwater exploration, the college is constantly pushing the boundaries of how the creative arts can blend seamlessly with the world of industry.

So too is Abertay University, where pioneering developments in videogaming technology have led to some incredible achievements. Working alongside the University of St Andrews Medical School, scientists have developed an interactive, animated simulation of cell signalling behaviour to help develop new cancer treatments.

And, in conjunction with Droman Crime Solutions and Police Scotland, the University has developed a videogame that is used to train police officers in how to properly handle digital evidence.

Mona Bozdog's installation at Inchcolm Island.
Mona Bozdog’s installation at Inchcolm Island. Image by Erika Stevenson.

This blurring of the digital and real worlds is also present in PhD student Mona Bozdog’s work, where she took over the uninhabited Inchcolm Island – four miles east of the Forth Bridge – to blend BAFTA-nominated video game Dear Esther with live orchestral music.

This creative approach isn’t limited to indoor workplaces, however: the James Hutton Institute has created pioneering apps which can be used by farmers and land managers in Scotland to identify soil samples and predict potato crop sizes, massively impacting on the agricultural industry.

It’s safe to say that the creative industries are thriving in Dundee and Angus: cutting edge research blurs the line between artistry and industry in new and exciting ways, breeding ideas that will one day become legend.

Providing the Building Blocks for Future Legends

Karen Tocher, business tourism manager at Dundee & Angus Convention Bureau, looks at the educational innovations and initiatives taking place in Dundee and Angus to create a breeding ground for the legends of the future…

In business, collaboration is key. To borrow an old cliché, the whole is worth far greater than the sum of its parts. And so too is it true in education: the ability to bring together teachings from a number of sources is invaluable when nurturing and training the innovators of the future, especially as we enter Scotland Year of the Young People in 2018.

In Dundee and Angus, collaboration is already a priority.

The James Hutton Institute works together with the University of Dundee and Abertay University – along with others around the world – to offer PhD programmes like no other; allowing researchers to study an incredible field of topics. And for proof of success, we need look no further than Shumei Wang, who was globally recognised when she was named Young Plant Scientist 2018 for her discovery of a new pathway involved in infection in the pathogen responsible for potato late blight.

Elsewhere in the region, educators are working hard to provide a stimulating environment for students of all ages, encouraging new thought and discussion to inspire the legends of tomorrow.

Abertay University has introduced a collaborative learning suite, filled with new technologies. Writeable walls and shared computing facilities allow students to collaborate on documents and projects in real time, and afford educators a new way of interacting with those they teach.

The University of Dundee – which received a gold award in the inaugural Teaching Excellence Framework in 2017 – has recently launched a pioneering new training programme for teachers, combining the existing PGDE qualification and the probationary year, to address the country’s shortage of STEM teachers.

And recently, two Dundonian teachers – Kelly MacDonald and Jill Sim – were recognised by the Scotland Women in Technology Awards for their work in encouraging young people in Dundee and Angus to embrace digital technology, providing the building blocks for legends of the future.

In education – as in business – it is incredibly important to look towards the future. And in Dundee and Angus, the emphasis is firmly on securing that future; on inspiring the innovators of tomorrow and providing them with the tools they require to achieve greatness, so that the ideas they have today really do become legend.

Dundee and Angus: A Technological Breeding Ground

Dundee has long been known as the city of discovery. Karen Tocher, business tourism manager at Dundee & Angus Convention Bureau, discusses some of the region’s current technological marvels…

There’s a good chance you’re reading this blog on a smartphone or a tablet. But did you know that research at the University of Dundee in the 70s led to the development of the flat LCD screen we see around us every day?

Abertay University, for example, teaches an undergraduate degree in ethical hacking to help strengthen the cyber security industry. The university has also recently opened a cutting-edge food lab which including the country’s only food facility with x-ray imaging. This allows researchers to understand how food processing affect the texture and quality of foodstuffs. The state-of-the-art facility also boasts a sensory lab which tests the taste, look and smell of foods.

Abertay University’s state-of-the-art food labs.

Across the city, the James Hutton Institute continues to innovate with technological advances in the food industry. A series of apps – which identify soil types, predict potato crop size distribution, and identify pests and diseases – have been developed to help farmers and food producers maximise their crops. And a new transparent soil has been created so that researchers can study root growth in plants and crops for the first time.

Dundee’s technological marvels aren’t just confined to the ground, though. Researchers at the University of Dundee have their sights set firmly on the stars, having developed SpaceWire – a data transfer technology similar to USB designed specifically for use in space. It has already been used in major space exploration missions, including the ESA/JAXA Bepicolombo mission to Mercury, and has spun out into its own company – Star Dundee.

Dundee and Angus has a long history of pioneering technological advances; of being a breeding ground for new talent, and attracting some of the world’s greatest minds to collaborate and develop cutting edge research at conferences, exhibitions and events. The region continues to be at the forefront of technological innovation… who knows what the future will hold.