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.