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Welsh universities highlight value of university research at home and abroad

Universities Week 2014 launches today, 9 June, highlighting some of the ground-breaking research currently taking place at universities across Wales.

Based around the theme of ‘Ideas for Life’, a series of events will  be held up and down the country showcasing how research at Welsh universities is having a deep and profound impact on our daily lives – be it at home or in some of the farthest corners of the globe.

In addition to events held at individual university campuses, the Chief Scientific Advisor for Wales, Professor Julie Williams, will deliver a keynote address at the National Museum Cardiff on Wednesday. During the evening she will highlight the impact Welsh universities have had over the past 100 years, along with outlining her vision for the future and challenging our universities to push the boundaries even further to conduct innovative and ground-breaking research, which will change lives for the better.

Some of the research work showcased by our universities during the week will include a new grass variety with the power to drastically reduce methane and nitrogen pollutants to help tackle the global challenges of climate change, food security and environmental damage; the creation of new strains of maize and rice that have improved the welfare and prosperity of over 5 million households in India and Nepal; advances in precision surgical techniques that uses 3D printing to help people with severe bone injuries; and the use of data mining and biostatistical modelling to combat the problem of drug resistance and prevent the risk of bacterial strains becoming toxic.

These are just a few of the many examples of how researchers at Wales’s universities are addressing global issues and having a profound – but often, silent – impact on our daily lives.

Universities Week follows hot on the heels of the publication earlier this year of an authoritative report by Elsevier, which concluded that Wales’s use of research inputs is highly productive and efficient, and outranks most comparator countries of a similar size. The first comprehensive evidence-based analysis of the sector’s research activity in the devolution era demonstrated the benefits of public investment in Welsh university research, as well as showing how Wales has come from behind to take a place within the top research countries of its size in the world.

Coupled with this is a recently updated report on the benefit of our universities to the economy of Wales by Viewforth Consulting, which came to the conclusion that the higher education sector creates £3.6bn for the Welsh economy annually and is even more critical to our economy here in Wales than the English university sector is to their respective regions.

Universities Week 2014 in Wales aims to build upon these positive findings by giving the public a snapshot of our world-leading research-base, and demonstrating how our universities continue to have an impact on our lives.

Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales, Professor Julie Williams, said: “In Wales we’re lucky to have an established university sector with a record of success in the field of research, and it’s a source of immense pride that much of the work currently being undertaken at our universities is extending the frontiers of knowledge; contributing to our economic competitiveness; improving the performance of our public services; and most critically enhancing the quality of life – for us today, and for future generations.”

Director of Higher Education Wales, Amanda Wilkinson, said: “The week is set to engage the public with the real, world-leading innovation which is taking place in our universities. From saving people’s lives with cutting edge science in the world of healthcare through to making a lasting impact in alleviating food shortages in the Third World, our universities are undoubtedly creating ‘Ideas for Life’. Furthermore, the recent findings of both the Elsevier and Viewforth Consulting reports underline that the sector is well placed to meet the challenges posed in an increasingly globalised society.”

A series of events will be taking place to celebrate Universities Week across many of Wales’s university campuses. Find out more at www.universitiesweek.co.uk.