Ceri D. Jones, Director of Research, Engagement & Innovation Services

This year has produced a few challenges and thrown up some curve balls for us all, with BREXIT and the rapidly approaching transition period deadline, sector wide student recruitment challenges and the global COVID-19 pandemic to name but a few. Here Ceri Jones, Director of Swansea University’s Research, Engagement and Innovation Services (REIS) talks about what Swansea University has done in light of these challenges and how we can continue to support businesses in the months to come.

It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to provide a brief update on Research & Innovation at Swansea University. Firstly, I hope you and your family are safe and well and that you have managed to take an opportunity to enjoy the Summer months.

This year has certainly produced a few challenges and thrown up some curve balls for us all, with BREXIT and the rapidly approaching transition period deadline, sector wide student recruitment challenges and the global COVID-19 pandemic to name but a few that have emerged for Swansea University.

To say our funders, partners, collaborators, students, research community and support staff have stepped up in the face of significant uncertainty this year would be a major understatement. Astonishing, outstanding and humbling are words that spring to mind when reporting on achievements this year. There are hugely inspiring stories across the entire UK Higher Education sector to this effect.

Here in Swansea, we’ve managed to repurpose much of our activity in the fight against Covid-19 with the support of our partners and funders, with stories of sanitising ambulances, manufacturing hand gels, developing life-saving ventilators, studying physical and wellbeing impacts of the pandemic, diarising COVID-19 experiences and raising funds for those most in need to name a handful.

For anyone unfamiliar with Research & Innovation within Universities, this year could have been truly catastrophic, with the lock-down of research facilities, a mass movement to home-working, the furloughing of some research & support staff and major uncertainties to work through in terms of applying for new research funding and delivering on existing and newly approved research projects.

In the face of adversity this year, Swansea University captured £68m in Research Funding Awards, which represented an increase on the £62m captured in 18/19.  Included within this figure is funding for activity with a wide range of public, private and third sector organisations that will drive innovation and growth.  This incredible achievement was a result of tireless collaborative efforts across our community, and something I hope we can take some collective pride in as a City, a Region and a Country.

Much of this new activity will support projects that are funded to tackle Covid-19 and facilitate economic and social development within South West Wales and beyond, from supporting businesses develop and grow through leadership development training, to bringing new innovation to life, and working with organisations to understand and solve industry challenges.  As an institution, we recognise that we have a responsibility to work with and for our students, staff and communities across Wales and beyond.  We will continue to take pride in playing a role in creating new innovations, new jobs, new businesses and upskilling workforces to face many of the challenges that lay ahead.

Wales has lagged behind the rest of the UK over recent years in terms of funding to support Research & Innovation, and it is really encouraging to have recently been awarded £2.4m in funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, via the Research Wales Innovation Fund, to turbocharge innovation activities and put us on a level footing with our home nation counterparts. Further information to follow shortly, watch this space!!

This year marks our Centenary Year, which kicked off with Swansea University’s Research & Innovation Awards in January 2020.  With all physical events placed on hold in light of the global pandemic, funding set aside for centenary celebrations along with donations received from supporters have been channelled into grants for Covid-19 research and boosting the student hardship fund to help students directly affected by the pandemic.

Covid-19 had led to a change in the way we are all working. In June of this year, we moved over to a digital format for our engagement and networking platform, Swansea University: LINC, and have been overwhelmed by the positive response. Please do join us on LinkedIn and consider attending our next session which focuses on the legal, wellbeing and economic implications of homeworking.

I very much look forward to working with our stakeholders over the next year, and would encourage you to make contact with the team to discuss the range of funding that is currently available to organisations to facilitate collaboration with Universities, including the newly announced funding boost for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.

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