On Thursday 3 November I travelled up to Manchester for Innovate 2016, an annual event hosted by the Department for International Trade and Innovate UK designed to showcase the UK’s most exciting innovators to the rest of the world.
I was attending the event to act as an ambassador for the South West England and South East Wales Science and Innovation Audit (SWW-SIA) consortium, which brought together key academic, civic and economic actors across our region, including GW4 Alliance, University of the West of England, Plymouth University, Welsh Government, Local Enterprise Partnerships and key organisations and businesses.
The apex of Innovate 2016 was a speech from Greg Clark, Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in which he shared his vision of the UK Government’s industrial strategy.
In his speech, Greg Clark focused on a central theme: “the connection between innovation and place.” It is a resonant concept for a Cardiff University and GW4 Alliance as we aim to undertake pioneering research that both benefits our local communities and competes on the world stage.
The Minister used this keynote speech to launch the first wave of Science and Innovation Audits, which he held up as evidence that “the locally-directed, collaborative approach is the right way forward”. He thanked the consortia for their work and committed to using these reports as the authoritative evidence base to direct future investment.
For the SWW-SIA consortium, the exercise acted as a unique opportunity to build upon existing partnerships and forge new connections among our universities, major organisations, Welsh Government and Local Enterprise Partnerships to capture our research and industrial strengths.
The audit identified that the region is home to the largest aerospace sector in the UK and pioneering automotive, nuclear and marine renewables industries. It also found that our region is synonymous with digital innovation, home to the largest silicon design cluster outside of the USA; more climate expertise than any other area worldwide; global powerhouse for the microelectronics industry; a national exemplar for smart cities.
We must now continue this important work in defining South West England and South East Wales as a regional powerhouse in its own right which can lead the UK in advanced engineering and digital innovation, and I look forward to building on this powerful momentum with our partners.