£36m EU-backed investment in research and innovation for Welsh business

A new £36m EU-backed scheme to develop post-graduate research and innovation skills in partnership with small and medium-sized businesses has been announced by the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones.

The Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS II) scheme will partner over 500 businesses with academics and postgraduate research students to develop innovative research projects aimed at driving business growth.

The scheme, which will benefit from £26m of EU funds, will allow over 600 postgraduate students to benefit from opportunities to develop as research professionals as part of Research Masters and PhD programmes funded through the scheme.

Led by Bangor University in partnership with other Welsh universities, KESS II will operate in North, West Wales and the South Wales Valleys over the next six years.

The First Minister said: “It’s excellent news for hundreds of businesses that will benefit from collaboration with our universities in research and development, and for talented young people looking to develop high-level skills and expertise in Wales.

“This is a significant EU investment that will help align research with the needs of small businesses and drive higher level skills in Wales in the coming years.  It is a clear example of how Wales benefits from the UK’s membership of the EU.”

The KESS II scheme will target research collaboration with SMEs in key sectors of the Welsh economy including life sciences, advanced engineering and materials, low carbon energy, ICT and the digital economy.

It builds on the success of the first KESS scheme which supported research and development in collaboration with 380 Welsh businesses between 2009 and 2015, and led to over 400 PhDs and Research Masters degrees.

Professor John Hughes, Vice Chancellor at Bangor University, said: “Bangor University is proud to be leading the HE sector in Wales for this far reaching, high impact EU-backed scheme. EU funds of £26 million will enable KESS II to deliver 645 PhD and Research Masters projects, each one in collaboration with a local business across eight Universities in Wales.”

Professor Jo Rycroft-Malone, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact at Bangor University, added: “The KESS II programme will ensure that Welsh Universities will continue to produce high quality PhD and Research Masters candidates who have a good understanding of the needs of business.

“KESS II will support enterprises in North, West Wales and Valleys areas to embed research and innovation that align the development of higher level skills with business benefits. This scheme will create significant benefits for people, businesses and the economy.”