The recent UK Investment Summit Wales conference has underlined the vital importance university research has to play in the Welsh economic recovery, with the announcement that Welsh businesses have increased spending on research and development (R&D) by 37% over the past year to £369m, with universities spending a further £264m on top of this figure.
During the conference, Paul Byard from the Engineering Employers Federation called for Wales’s spending on R&D to rise from its present 2% of the UK total to around 7-7.5%, with employers also wanting more to be done in manufacturing and selling some of the world-leading R&D currently taking place at Welsh universities to a global market.
This is supported by data produced by Viewforth Consulting earlier this year, which came to the conclusion that not only do Welsh universities create £3.6bn for the Welsh economy annually, but they are even more critical to its economy than the English university sector is to their respective regions. Taking the institutions alone (not including students), Welsh HE was matched only by the North East of England in terms of its relative importance to regional GVA. Other data finds were that Welsh universities:
- Generated a total of £3.6bn in output
- Contributed almost £2bn to the nation’s GDP
- Generate – directly and indirectly – over 38,000 jobs (2.6% of Welsh total)
- Earned £413m in export earnings for the Welsh economy