Why research matters

Professor Karen Holford argues high quality research can deliver significant long-term economic benefits.

In our high-tech world, smart innovation teams win through. They thrive on flexibility, talent and trust – but they only succeed if they’re underpinned by great research.

That’s why I’m delighted to welcome the publication of the final Growing Value Wales report by the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB).

Over the last year, I have sat as a member of the advisory panel to Professor Graeme Reid’s review of Research and Innovation Funding in Wales, commissioned by Welsh Government.  

The final report will be published in May and will set out recommendations, building closely on Diamond proposals, on how to sustain research and innovation competitiveness in Wales and contribute to prosperity for all.

One of the key themes of this work has been the importance of high quality research and the contribution this makes to long-term economic development.

When research activity is underpinned by Quality Research funding (QR), it enables universities to collaborate with business and helps talented postgraduates gain the skills that they need to be highly employable.

‘Making the Connection – a New National Innovation Compact for Wales’ – published by the Growing Value Wales Task Force – calls for increased QR funding.

The analysis also shows that ‘disruptive forces’ are at play in Wales, from the shape of our world after Brexit to a shift in the global economy. Technology is driving business towards data analytics, quantum computing and Artificial Intelligence.

In Wales, we must align interests, build high-quality communications and sustain excellent relationships.

The Reid Review provides a framework to speed up innovation by amplifying QR funding from Welsh Government in order to increase significantly the level of skills and knowledge within the Welsh workforce to deliver the ambitions for enhanced productivity, competitiveness and prosperity.

We must also seek help from Welsh Government to de-risk and speed up work at on-campus joint research and development hot-spots focused on emerging technologies. Universities and employers must work together more effectively to match the skills needs of the country through co-designed curricula, life-long reskilling, and continuous professional development

Innovation in Wales is poised to deliver significant benefits. Now is surely the time to grasp the nettle.

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Professor Karen Holford is Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University

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