Jamie Hepburn was at community interest company Sustainable Thinking Scotland, which is discovering multiple positive uses of biochar, a by-product created by burning wood. The benefits include the removal of toxins from soil and water.
The company has been supported by Interface, specialists in knowledge exchange, who connect innovative thinkers to Scottish academics.
Mr Hepburn said: “I was delighted to visit Sustainable Thinking to see the excellent work that they are doing.
“I was very interested to see how much support they had been given by Interface who have facilitated connections between world class Scottish universities and companies in need of innovative solutions.
“The Scottish Government continues to support the accelerated translation of the outputs of Scotland’s excellent university research into practical improvements, business innovation and economic growth as well as environmental and societal benefits.”
Sustainable Thinking Scotland co-founder, Sean Kerr said: “There has been a massive acceleration in terms of the biochar project in the last year. There is no way we would have made the acceleration that we have without the support of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and Interface.
"I wasn’t quite prepared for how quickly the work would be done, and how quickly we would get results back. Once we connected with UHI, it opened a lot of doors.
"Once we started to speak to an academic partner the potential was beyond anything we could have imagined. Now we are at phase 3. The only reason we have the space and resources to look at phase 3 research and production is all thanks to the support we have had over the past year from universities and Interface.”
Interface’s interim director, Laura Goodfellow, said: “It is a fantastic time for Mr Hepburn to see some of the work going on at a business working with Scottish Universities to achieve their environmental goals.”
She added: “It demonstrate the different ways in which a business of any size can tap into the expertise available within universities and how sustained relationships can develop out of initial projects.
“We recently celebrated our 3,000th collaboration between a business and university or college, so it is great to share our success story with the Minister and showcase some of the ways in which collaborative working is benefiting communities, the environment, and the economy.”