Olivia Harrison, Chief Executive of The Learned Society of Wales, outlines the crucial impact higher education research plays for Wales, the UK and internationally.
The world around us is rapidly changing. With the threats of climate change, the rising cost of living, cybersecurity risks, political instability and wars, it feels like we’re standing on a precipice, looking for solutions to problems at home and abroad. At the Learned Society of Wales (LSW), our mission is to promote and develop Wales’ research and innovation community, and to support the use of excellent and diverse research to solve the challenges faced in Wales and around the world. We passionately believe in the power of knowledge to transform society and stand firm in our conviction that decisions grounded in evidence pave the way for genuine societal advancement.
When we commissioned King’s College London to produce an analysis of ‘The impacts of research from Welsh universities’, we wanted to gain a better understanding of how research at Welsh universities makes a difference to people’s lives. The analysis provides a snapshot of the remarkable research being conducted at our universities and offers real-life examples that demonstrate how research conducted in Welsh universities continues to change lives and push boundaries.
The Ripple Effect: Local and Global Impacts
Welsh university research is not confined to academic papers and seminar rooms. It is alive in the streets, in homes, and in public policies. Whether it’s Cardiff Metropolitan University’s strides in improving the lives of dementia patients, the research by the University of South Wales in family health, Wrexham University’s bridging of arts and health sectors, or the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s innovations that enhance the lives of children with neurodevelopment conditions, the tangible impacts of research are profound and far- reaching.
Welsh university research is not confined to academic papers and seminar rooms. It is alive in the streets, in homes, and in public policies.
The Open University’s inclusive approach to supporting refugees and migrants highlights the worldwide implications of studies conducted on Welsh soil and underlines the global resonance of Welsh research. When you think about the number of wildfires this year, the research by Swansea University on water contamination from wildfires has informed land management and drinking-water provision in Australia, England, and Spain, improving post- fire diagnostics. And with over 60% of Welsh university research impacts extending to countries from Norway to Japan, the global footprint of Welsh academia is expansive and influential.
Beyond societal well-being, the economic implications of Welsh research are significant. The collaboration between Cardiff University and Airbus around cybersecurity is a powerful example of how research can catalyse economic growth and job creation. The direct financial outcomes of research, leading to the creation of jobs in the private and public sectors, underscore the tangible economic transformation driven by academia and industry working together.
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Embracing Diversity: The Power of Collaborative Research
One of the key strengths of Welsh university research lies in its collaborative spirit. Almost 94% of research case studies analysed by King’s reported impactful collaborations with external partners. The partnership between Aberystwyth, Bangor, and Swansea universities to preserve marine biodiversity was undertaken with the University College Cork, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (Ireland’s seafood development agency) and Foras na Mara Marine Institute
(Ireland’s marine research and development agency) has become a cornerstone for aligning ecological stewardship with human needs, not only protecting vital species but also setting a necessary precedent for conserving marine ecosystems worldwide.
As the UK looks forward to full association with the Horizon Europe programme, the opportunities for collaborative research and further global impact are bound to increase. This re-association promises a resurgence of collaborative opportunities, cementing the role of Welsh universities at the forefront of global academic excellence.
So, Why Does This Matter?
In a time of overwhelming challenges and relentless change, the importance of Welsh university research cannot be overstated. It’s not merely an intellectual exercise but it has the potential to be a lifeline. Research offers practical, real-world solutions to the pressing issues we face daily. It enables evidence-based decisions to be made that can help build a resilient, thriving society. University research can bridge the gap between local needs and global concerns, making Welsh innovations relevant and impactful across continents. The deep-rooted collaborative spirit ensures that knowledge is not siloed but shared, magnifying its effects.
One of the key strengths of Welsh university research lies in its collaborative spirit. Almost 94% of research case studies analysed by King’s reported impactful collaborations with external partners.
In essence, the work of Welsh universities is the catalyst for a future that’s not only more informed but also more interconnected, inclusive, and innovative. To truly harness the power of diverse research, we must commit to long-term investment, acknowledging that impact takes time and commitment. Through tireless dedication and collaboration, together with an unwavering commitment to societal betterment and an on-going funding commitment, Welsh researchers can continue to enhance our quality of life, shaping our world for the better and leaving lasting impacts that make a difference.
To view a high-level summary of the report see: Making an Impact – A Celebration of Welsh Research