It has been said that when Aberdeen prospers, Scotland prospers. A re-energised Aberdeen city and surrounding region, therefore, represents one of the greatest social and economic opportunities for Scotland today. 

Through a new collaborative initiative, Robert Gordon University (RGU), with strategic partner RSM, innovation partner Elevator and sponsors RBS and ACSEGF, are creating a platform for business leaders and students to help shape the next chapter in the story of Aberdeen’s and Scotland’s economic success.

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At the recent Economic Summit, held at RGU on the 25th November 2015, a Skunkworks session was integrated into the day so ensure a post-summit development programme could be rapidly put into place. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, 'Skunkworks' projects are developed by a small and loosely structured group of people who research and develop a project primarily for the sake of radical innovation.

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The Garthdee campus will act as an innovation hub to support a re-energised partnership of private and public sector leaders, interfacing with and drawing from the energy, talent and expertise of the students and faculty.

One of the students involved was Chris Burnett. Here, he gives us his take on the day:

Chris Burnett RGU skunkworksInnovative ideas spreading through RGU…by Chris Burnett

Wednesday 25th of November. Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.

A group of students have posed a question along the lines of ‘How do we create an environment where innovative people want to work to improve Aberdeen?’.

I was one of those students and it was great to be given the creative space and responsibility to put forward actual ideas alongside other innovative thinkers.

The Elevator team were there to facilitate, inspire and generally get our creative juices flowing, which they did very effectively. I was especially interested in their use of random props to get different parts of our brains engaged, due to my degree including Psychology. Having gone through a similar process a few times recently at various other events, I knew that no idea was too far-fetched not to be written down.

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Around 200 post-it-notes later and we reached a point where it was time to synthesise the ideas into themes.

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Those themes emerged as;

  • Increasing the range of tourist attractions
  • Creating a new identity for the city, re-creating the colour and community
  • Making Aberdeen an example of a city with thriving communication and collaboration between sectors
  • Increasing international networks and opportunities for young people to become entrepreneurs
  • Make Aberdeen a UNESCO city of Gastronomy
  • Trust students to take risks with their innovative ideas
  • Integrate the student population with the Aberdeen economy

I then had the somewhat daunting privilege of feeding those themes into the main Economic Summit that was happening simultaneously with our creative process.

Speaking out to over 150 delegates from all sectors of the Aberdeen economy was a great experience, and was made significantly easier by the faith shown in me by the Elevator team.

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In terms of next steps, the students who were part of the event are going to hold a similar workshop with other students within the next week to engage with the wider student population and come up with even more ideas that we can then feedback to Elevator and all interested partners.

The hope is that we can come up with some tangible ‘business’ ideas or projects that can be implemented to the benefit of the city and the wider North East region. What this event has shown is that when given the chance, students can step up and prove our creative worth.


RGU Economic Summit Nov 2015 650 ZF 9986 53230 1 025If you would like to find out more about the collaborative Skunkworks project, please contact our Project Team Leader, Karen Clark on KarenC@elevatoruk.com or call 01224 289711/ 07824504387

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