Lews Castle College UHI launched a new Innovation Centre on Tuesday 21st August.

The innovation centre offers training, advice and development facilities for the use of modern high technology and for people who would like to start their own business.

The centre is ‘free at the point of use; offering not just college students but all members of the public an opportunity to develop these skills.

Opening proceedings, in front of a considerable crowd, College Principal Mr Iain Macmillan said: “The College is committed to broadening people’s views of future business and employment opportunities in the Energy and Technology industries.”

“At Lews Castle we take a broad perspective on Technology, Engineering and Innovation. We believe that they offer huge opportunities for the future “

The initial idea for the project came from former NASA contract engineer Dr Chris Macleod of Lews Castle College.

Chris said, “Universities should not, just, be about training. They should be about Innovation and wealth creation.”

 “Our target is for islanders who come to us with innovative ideas to move on with prototypes and a Business Plan which can be presented to perspective investors”.

Guest speaking at the event was Callum Macdonald of Point and Sandwick Trust, who provided £20,000  of  financial support for the project.

“The whole point of community energy is to provide support to the community. We are committed to provide support to projects across the whole of the Western Isles.”

“Lews Castle will be, and has been, a key player in how our islands develop, through the impact it has on the educational, economic and cultural opportunities in our community”

The trust’s money will go towards high-tech equipment to allow the centre to expand its research and testing capabilities into more specialist areas such as communications and bio-tech.

The centre’s research capabilities will be doubled and Dr Chris Macleod, hopes it will foster a new generation of technologically literate islanders, encourage more high-tech start-ups and attract inward investment.

Chris, who is from Marybank and returned to the island four years ago after a 30-year career elsewhere, wants to see a new focus in the islands on high-tech, health-wealth industries.

“If you look at the richest people in the world — Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and all the rest of them — every one of them is a high-tech entrepreneur. The highest worth, highest growth industries in the world are high-technology industries and unless civilisation comes to an end suddenly, that’s not going to change. It’s only going to get bigger.”  

He believes there is no reason why Lewis could not be at the forefront.

“Why not? It’s actually very easy to do it here compared to other industries on the island.

“For example, if you’ve got a large manufacturing facility on the island, making large steel structures, then you’ve got to ship those off the island.

“If you’re developing software, you just push a button and it gets sent to the other side of the world in a second. There’s no ‘big things’ to export. You can also do it as a distributed workforce from your house.”

Lecturer Chris came to Lews Castle College UHI from Robert Gordon University, where he was senior lecturer and director of research in its School of Engineering. He was in the US before that.

Chris believes in the power of the entrepreneur and was delighted to secure the funding from PST to take the Innovation Centre to the next level.

The centre is essentially a large room in the college, containing desks equipped with electronics testing equipment for research and development. It also has a small 3D printer, which allows mechanical pieces to be printed out.

Its research work is focused on micro-controllers — small, single-board computer controllers which can be programmed in a myriad of ways. Chris describes them as “kits for invention”, where “the only limit is your imagination”.

Until now, the centre has been limited to work in areas such as environmental monitoring and energy efficiency. The new equipment will take them into new areas such as communications — including the internet, WiFi, mobile phones and Apps. It will also allow work in biotech, such as developments to monitor hip replacements and diagnose Type 2 diabetes.

Around 15 people had so far have expressed an interest in using the centre after it opened to the public, with “quite a lot of interest from people interested in developing aids for health-related issues”.  Chris invites anyone else interested to email him directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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