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Welsh universities will support economic and social recovery

  • Welsh universities will pull together to benefit communities across Wales
  • Report highlights how Welsh universities can deliver upon public aims in Wales and attract extra investment to Wales

Welsh universities have agreed to implement a new report, strengthening research and innovation in Wales.

Strength in Diversity’ sets out how Welsh universities can collaborate, build on existing research excellence in Wales, and make Welsh research and innovation more visible across the UK and internationally. In doing so, Welsh universities will be well-placed to collaborate with partners including with public authorities in the delivery of regional investment approaches.

The report, by Professor Graeme Reid and commissioned by Universities Wales, describes how research and innovation in Wales are changing.  Regional funding from the EU is ending as more investment from UK Research and Innovation becomes available.

Recognising that the future funding environment for research and innovation in Wales will place more emphasis on competitive funding, the report shows that collaborative projects from a range of Welsh universities will often be stronger than any single university could develop alone.

Professor Reid’s recommendations include:

  1. An initial focus on resources aimed at regional investment and ‘levelling up’ economies and societies across Wales
  2. A new streamlined approach for creating research and innovation collaborations
  3. Universities should agree a protocol for collaborations supported by a new dedicated team

Professor Graeme Reid, who delivered the work, said: ‘Research and innovation make vital contributions to the economy and society of Wales, and its universities are central to this activity.

‘Diversity is an untapped strength of the Welsh research base and, at a time when many universities are experiencing financial pressures and uncertainties, it is more important than ever that Welsh institutions work in partnership to strengthen research and innovation in regions across the country.’

‘This is a time of opportunity and challenge for universities in Wales. It’s a time to explore the combined strengths of the sector, and look for ways to turn the diverse characteristics of Welsh institutions into additional competitive strength that could offer significant long-term benefits for economies and societies across Wales.’

Professor Paul Boyle, Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University and Chair of Universities Wales’ Research and Innovation Network, said: ‘I would like to thank Professor Reid for his insightful and timely report which makes clear the urgency with which we must act to strengthen research and innovation across Wales, and provides us with a clear approach for doing so.

‘As a sector we are committed to working together to implement these recommendations. By having a single and coherent voice for research and innovation, we can support Wales’ recovery from the pandemic and ensure that we are best-placed to make the most of the changing funding environment in the UK.’

Professor Julie Lydon OBE, Vice-Chancellor of University of South Wales and Chair of Universities Wales, said: ‘We know our universities have already played a vital role in the nation’s response to the covid-19. As we recover from the pandemic, the already vital contribution that our universities’ research and innovation makes to the people and places of Wales will become even more important.

‘These proposals set out an approach that will not only better enable us to collaborate with each other, but also with public authorities, businesses and charities. This will strengthen Wales’ ability to address the regional and social challenges we face and ensure that the benefits of research and innovation are felt across the whole of Wales.’

 

The Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams said:

‘This year has brought into focus how good our universities are in working with their communities and with other organisations.  I welcome this report and I look forward to seeing our universities working together even more.

‘I also look forward to further discussion with UK government ministers about how the share of UKRI and other research funding for Welsh universities can be assured.’

 

Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart MP said:

‘Higher education plays a crucial role in driving economic growth, from ground-breaking research to developing the next generation of skilled employees.

‘I welcome the findings of the report, which will see greater collaboration amongst Wales’ outstanding institutions while continuing to make our universities and the communities in which they are based attractive destinations for international investment.’

 

Kellie Beirne, Chief Executive of Cardiff Capital Region City Deal, said that the programme would welcome more streamlined approaches to collaboration between universities across Wales:

‘A common protocol for these partnerships would be key to leveraging external funds and enabling city and growth deals to join forces with universities to ensure the translation of research, development and innovation into economic benefits

 

Dr David Blaney, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, said:

‘We very much welcome this initiative taken by the universities in Wales and the clarity of the key recommendations made by Professor Reid. The commitment the universities are making to strengthen, and streamline, their research and innovation activities will build still further their contribution to improving the lives of people in Wales.’