Saltire 10th Birthday - Post 3 Robert Hairstans

The Saltire Fellowship has underpinned my technical ability with skills that will fundamentally help me make a scalable difference to construction culture and the sustainable delivery of the built environment.

“Since the formation of the Saltire Foundation in 2007, our Saltire programmes have been on quite a journey. We have supported over 900 individuals that have taken part in our world-class leadership programmes, many of whom have heightened their ambitions and achieved things they never thought possible. Our mission has always been to find, fuel and spark the next generation of leaders for Scotland, and looking back over 10 years of success it is clear we have some of the most talented, determined and capable leaders within our alumni. Now part of Entrepreneurial Scotland, our alumni are part of a wider network influencing economic and social change for our country. To celebrate 10 years of Saltire, we will be shining a light on 10 inspirational alumni members, over the next 10 months showcasing their fantastic journeys since taking part in our Scholar or Fellow programme”  

Sandy Kennedy, Chief Executive of Entrepreneurial Scotland


Post 3: Robert Hairstans, Associate Professor at Edinburgh Napier University and Saltire Fellow 2014 - 2016:

I was a Scottish Government and Edinburgh Napier University funded Saltire Fellow and split my time over two cohorts between 2014/15 and 2015/16. I went on the Fellowship to accelerate change in the delivery of the built environment in order to establish the sustainable communities of tomorrow as part of a circular economy. The learning of the Fellowship has augmented my technical knowledge with the commercial and leadership skills necessary to drive change in construction culture and present a clear and compelling vision capable of engaging the next generation of professionals from a diverse pool of talent.

I am an Associate Professor at Edinburgh Napier, where I head the Research Centre for Offsite Construction + Innovative Structures. Offsite Construction is the manufacture and pre-assembly of construction components, elements or modules in a factory before installation into their final location. Scotland has a mature timber offsite construction sector worth £250M with ambitions to scale to £550M by 2020, the UK construction sector is worth £90Bn. To achieve this, an Offsite HUB (Scotland) has been formed bringing together the 8 lead manufacturers via a limited liability co-operative as a direct result of the Saltire Fellowship, with supported and combined funding (circa £250k) from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) and Scottish Enterprise. The formation of the HUB was supported by project work undertaken on the Fellowship, working with two further Saltire Fellows, Katherine Hayes of Carbon Dynamic and Andrew Vincent of Scottish Enterprise. This included the coordination of a learning journey to the US with the Offsite HUB industry members and an international Offsite Construction Workshop at Babson College with industry and academic representation from Sweden, US and Canada.

Utilising the skills developed via the Saltire Fellowship and in partnership with Entrepreneurial Scotland, I then co-founded  “The Built Environment Exchange” (beX) with international academic partners in Canada, USA, Australia, Hong Kong, Sweden and France with a view to creating the next generation of construction professionals with global mind-sets.

BeX is an international knowledge exchange cooperative platform to connect University partners and their respective industry collaborators. BeX will accelerate a change in construction culture towards progressive delivery via international knowledge exchange and business collaboration. The beX process has already been piloted via a number of diverse Saltire Scholars. The first two Scholars were from Strathclyde University: Caroline Brown and Ross Cooper both undertook work that facilitated the set up of the Offsite HUB (Scotland). A further Saltire Scholar from Edinburgh Napier, Rory Doak, has been investigating offsite construction techniques capable of delivering educational facilities, utilising local skill sets and sustainable materials in Malawi, in partnership with the charity “Classrooms for Malawi” and with support from the industry partner of the Offsite HUB (Scotland).

The Saltire Fellowship has underpinned my technical ability with skills that will fundamentally help me make a scalable difference to construction culture and the sustainable delivery of the built environment.

For more information on COCIS visit and for beX please visit