Welsh science aims for the stars

It’s been a busy week for science policy in Wales.  It started on Monday with the launch of ‘Science for Wales – A strategic agenda for science and innovation in Wales’.  The strategy pulls no punches, calling for a ‘sustained and committed effort by many more of our academics’ in securing a larger share of UK Research Council funding and increasing levels of collaboration.

Specific goals include:

  • Increase the Welsh share of UK Research Council funding from 3.3% in 2009/10 to 5%.
  • For the proportion of research achieving 3* and 4* quality and impact levels in Wales’ universities to reach the highest UK level in the new Research Excellence Framework

Three Grand Challenges have outlined – Life sciences and health; Low carbon, energy and environment; and Advanced engineering and materials.  These areas have been identified as those where Wales already has a track record on excellence and where the route from research to commercialisation is reasonably clear.  The identification of Grand Challenges forms the basis of a new initiative called ‘Sêr Cymr’.  As part of this, three National Research Networks will be set up (one for each of the challenges) in addition to efforts to bring in new global ‘stars’ to work in Wales, principally in these three areas.  This initiative doesn’t come cheap, with the package costed at £50 million.

The publication of the strategy has been followed by news today  of up to a £100 million life sciences investment fund for Wales.  This dedicated equity fund will invest into life sciences businesses located in Wales, starting with £25 million immediately.  The Welsh Life Sciences sector is considered to be worth at least £1.3 billion to the Welsh economy.

A CaSE policy report published last year on ‘Science, Engineering and the Devolved Nations’, emphasised the important role of science and engineering in aiding  economic recovery and securing long-term prosperity.  CaSE welcomes these initiatives to raise the profile and impact of science in Wales.

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One Comment

  1. John Cadogan
    Posted 03/04/2012 at 16:21 | Permalink

    £50 m from the Welsh government folows 12 years of underfunding amounting to 350m but better little than nothing. At £10 m pa it has to cover 3 Stars AND 3 Grand Challenge Directors overseeing their work. Also the CSA is to have a new department. It is optimistic to expect real stars to come on the promise of only 5 years tenure and to have some bureaucrat overseeing them.

    The £100m life science fund is the target to be raised by subscription and there is a long long way to go in these tough times.

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