Responding to the initial findings of Wales’ first Chief Scientific Adviser Professor John Harries, the Sêr Cymru (Stars Wales) scheme has been created to attract and select outstanding science professors from across the world to work in Wales with the aim of winning more competed for science research funding.
The Sêr Cymru scheme and National Research Networks are key components of the Welsh Government’s new science strategy ‘Science for Wales - a strategic agenda for science and innovation in Wales’ launched today by the First Minister at GE Healthcare in Cardiff.
The strategy sets a target for Wales to win five per cent of competitive research funding - principally from the UK Research Councils. Scottish universities won 14.8% of competitive research funding in 2009 - 10.
The Welsh Government funding will be used to provide specialist equipment, bring the salary to the level a ‘star’ academic would merit and fund appropriate members of their team. Welsh Government is calling for universities across Wales to use this opportunity to become more ambitious and more collaborative in their approach to making funding bids in order to reach the target level.
Speaking at the start of National Science and Engineering Week, First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones said;
“Wales has some great scientific strengths but as our Chief Scientific Adviser has said himself, we could do so much better. Our universities have the opportunity here to work with the best research groups across the world and strive for excellence.
“If our universities gain 5% of the competitive research funding from the UK Research Council, this will bring £27 million into our economy.. This rises to over £64 million if you look at all sources of competitively- funded research. Sêr Cymru and our network plans will enable us to attract more talent to Wales to help drive this figure up and in due course create more high quality business and research jobs in Wales.”
Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science Edwina Hart said;
“Our goal is to build a strong and dynamic science base that supports the economic and national development of Wales. We recognise the vital links between the research and science skills base in Wales, and the processes of innovation, development and commercialisation that transform scientific outputs of research into economic advantage for Wales.”
The strategy sets out three Grand Challenge areas where we have the capabilities in research and in businesses that can use the research to develop products, processes and services to benefit our economy. They are:
- Life sciences and health
- Low carbon, energy and environment
- Advanced engineering and materials.
The Welsh Government foresees that the stars’ research interests will fall within these three areas.
The strategy also sets out other key areas for future development including:
- boosting innovation in business and strengthening academic-business partnerships to promote this. The Welsh Government wants to see more industry-academic partnerships like SPECIFIC led by Swansea University with Tata Steel UK.
- The National Science Academy to encourage the people of Wales, especially young people in education, to become more engaged with the science that plays an increasing part in our lives.
- educating our children and young people in science - through engagement activity - but also through qualified teachers delivering inspirational teaching of a relevant and stimulating curriculum. We need to ensure we have sufficient young people studying science at a high-enough level and choosing science-based careers to give Wales the next generation of researchers and business people capable of commercialising scientific discoveries.
- improving the health and well-being of the people of Wales by ensuring effective health and social care research that translates into health benefits for individuals and in the population at large. NISCHR (The National Institute for Social Care and Health Research) plays a leading part in this agenda.