Education and innovation are often cited as key factors that will help Scotland and the UK compete successfully in today’s global race. In today’s challenging economic circumstances, I believe we will succeed only by entering that global race and having the skills, people and products to take on the rest of the world and win.
That’s why I’m travelling to Brazil this week, to support a group of Scottish businesses from across a range of key sectors of our economy as they look for opportunities to do business in one of the world’s largest and most dynamic economies.
I’m particularly pleased to be visiting Brazil as one of Scotland’s leading universities – and my alma mater – intensifies its long-standing links with Latin America, by opening a new office in Sao Paolo. Edinburgh University’s Office of the Americas, which opened its doors officially yesterday, will help the university develop links and collaboration with partners in education, business and government across the whole of Latin America.
Edinburgh University has recently climbed higher up the prestigious Times Higher Education Reputation Rankings, which measure the global reputation of world education institutions.
It is the only Scottish university to make the top 100. It is in good company, along with Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but this only emphasises how fierce the competition is out there.
Combined with Heriot-Watt and Napier University continuing to expand their international presence, Edinburgh is building a well deserved reputation as a global centre for education.
Fortunately, Edinburgh is using the reach and support offered by the UK government’s network in Brazil. The office will be launched in the British consulate in Sao Paolo, and with more than 250 full-time staff in five cities in Brazil, the UK government’s commercial diplomacy is reaching out across this vast country to make the best connections for Scottish and British businesses and organisations.
The university is also partnering with the Brazilian government in its Science without Borders initiative, which has a target of welcoming 10,000 Brazilian students to the UK by 2016.
Coinciding with the official opening, the university is participating in a conference focusing on the management of biodiversity, water and energy resources and will feature policy-makers and leading academics from Edinburgh and Brazil.
My own programme takes me on to the southern city of Porto Alegre, where engineering opportunities in the development of oil and gas production abound. A number of Scottish companies will be following me down to Porto Alegre, to explore the potential for doing business there.
These businesses are also taking part in UK Trade and Investment’s major energy showcase in Rio, which offers matchmaking for UK companies looking to do business in Brazil, and gives access to many of the key Brazilian businesses our companies need to work with and get to know.
Finally, I must also mention Glasgow – with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year, a number of Glasgow-based businesses are in Brazil, taking the opportunity to build on the Commonwealth and Olympic effect and show what they have to offer, as Brazil prepares for two great sporting events of its own, the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
I’m confident that all the Scottish businesses in Brazil this week will succeed and build great partnerships in Latin America.
• Michael Moore is Secretary of State for Scotland and Lib Dem MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk