Universities form network to strengthen R&I in Wales

Universities in Wales have revealed plans to form a collaborative new initiative to strengthen research and innovation in Wales. 

The Wales Innovation Network (WIN) is being set up in response to Professor Graeme Reid’s 2020 report, Strength in Diversity, which recommended the creation of a new initiative to tap into the diversity of Wales’ research and innovation capacity through collaboration. 

At this crucial moment for research and innovation, in a changing international landscape, WIN will raise the profile of research and innovation within Wales and the UK, provide a forum in which participants can share expertise, and make it easier for Welsh universities to form partnerships and share infrastructure. 

In addition to encouraging collaboration across universities in Wales, the Network will also support collaboration with a wide range of private, public and third sector bodies, strengthening knowledge exchange throughout Wales. 

Speaking at a preview event today, hosted by Universities Wales and the Learned Society of Wales, Professor Reid introduced the initiative and highlighted the potential benefits it will bring to research and innovation in Wales.  

“Research and innovation make vital contributions to the economy and society of Wales, and its universities are central to this activity. 

“Diversity is an untapped strength of the Welsh research base and, at a time when many universities are experiencing financial pressures and uncertainties, it is more important than ever that Welsh institutions work in partnership to strengthen research and innovation in regions across the country. 

“The Wales Innovation Network will provide an important opportunity to explore the combined strengths of the sector and look for ways to turn the diverse characteristics of Welsh institutions into additional competitive strength that could offer significant long-term benefits for economies and societies across Wales.” 

Minister for the Economy, Vaughan Gething, also stated his support for the initiative and the positive impact it could have on the Welsh economy.

“The Welsh Government recognises the critical role that research and innovation has to play in delivering our new programme for government. Our aspirations for a healthier, greener, fairer more prosperous, and more equal Wales can only be achieved in an environment that is innovative and transformative.  

“I’m confident that this Network will be an important contributor, not only to our strategy, but also to how we innovate into the future, and how we deliver impact with and for the people of Wales.” 

Welsh Secretary of State, Simon Hart said: 

“The Wales Innovation Network (WIN) is a fantastic opportunity for Welsh research and innovation. We are investing in research and development – supporting jobs and growth right across Wales – and are committed to reaching a target spend of 2.4% of GDP on R&D across the UK economy by 2027. 

“The recently-launched UK Government Plan for Wales has set out how we will build back better from the pandemic. Today’s event has shown the creativity and innovation expertise that firms in Wales have to offer.” 

Professor Paul Boyle, Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University and Chair of Universities Wales’ Research and Innovation Network, said: 

“The Wales Innovation Network has the potential to deliver a real step-change in research and innovation activity in Wales.  

“WIN will not only better enable us to collaborate with each other, but also with public authorities, businesses and charities, strengthening Wales’ ability to address the regional and social challenges we face and ensuring that the benefits of research and innovation are felt across the whole of Wales.” 

Welcoming the launch of the Network, President of the Learned Society of Wales, Professor Hywel Thomas commented: 

 “The Wales Innovation Network is a timely development. Greater collaboration across the higher education sector in Wales will be vital to ensure increased effectiveness in an ever more competitive research and innovation funding landscape.” 

Dr David Blaney, Chief Executive of HEFCW, said:  

“The strength of this network very much lies in how the universities in Wales are focusing significant efforts on a truly collaborative approach to boost the long-term outlook for research and innovation.  

“In HEFCW we are pleased to support this initiative with an investment of more than £1 million over three years, including a new team based in Universities Wales. The network is governed by pro vice-chancellors in all Welsh universities and will raise the profile of R&I within Wales, the UK and beyond; provide a forum for participants to share expertise; and increase the competitiveness of university R&I by making it easier to form bidding partnerships and share infrastructure.” 

The initiative also received endorsements from organisations including UKRI, Thales and the CBI. 

The Wales Innovation Network will be supported through a new team hosted by Universities Wales.