The recent publication of Professor Graham Reid’s review of Research and Innovation Funding in Wales is cause for celebration.
I sat as a member of his advisory panel, looking at the strengths, gaps and future potential to grow strong research and innovation activity.
It built on Professor Ian Diamond’s recommendations for research funding and knowledge transfer within his review of higher education and student finance arrangements in Wales.
Welsh Government, which commissioned the Reid report, is committed to delivering the recommendations, which include:
- a new Welsh Research and Innovation Office in London to increase the visibility and influence of Welsh research;
- an additional £30m a year to incentivise researchers to win greater funding from business and from outside Wales; and
- a single overarching brand for its research and innovation funding to increase the visibility, coherence and impact of Welsh Government-funded research and innovation in Wales.
All this is extremely welcome at a time when we face the challenges of Brexit, and tie in nicely with the opportunities presented by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.
Our universities currently account for nearly half the Welsh research base. They are well placed to build partnerships that exploit research and innovation opportunities.
During his review, Professor Reid found national and international impact and success across university research excellence in Wales.
But we can do more. It is vital – as the Growing Value Wales Task Force highlighted in a recent report – that we align interests, build high-quality communications and sustain excellent relationships.
Wales must de-risk and speed up work at on-campus joint R&D hot-spots focused on emerging technologies. Cardiff Innovation Campus, which is being developed by Bouygues UK, will allow us to do just that.
Universities and employers must work closely to match the skills needs of the country through co-designed curricula, life-long reskilling, and continuing professional development.
It’s worth remembering that Welsh universities have the highest percentage of ‘world leading’ research in terms of impact of any part of the UK.
As Professor Reid has noted, the growing UKRI budget now presents major opportunities for Welsh businesses and universities to win extra funding and jointly drive competitiveness in the research and innovation sector.
We must work together to ensure that we make the most of these opportunities.