Our Aim Is to Stamp Our Presence on the Research Landscape of British Academia; RESEARCHING WALES Strengths and Benefits in the Ninth and Final Part of Our Series on University Research, Education Minister Leighton Andrews Reviews Researching Wales and Explains Why Welsh Universities Must Build on Their Solid Foundations
IN RESEARCH, Wales can lead the world. Welsh universities can boast world-class research in science, social science and the humanities.
The Science Strategy developed by the Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor John Harries, identified those areas where Wales is genuinely leading in scientific scholarship. Excellence in science and its exploitation for the benefit of Wales as a whole is central to our ambitions set down in our Programme for Government.
Wales needs to make the best possible use of our scientific research not only to bring new products, processes and services to the market but also to bring improvements to our health, environment and welfare as a whole.
Scientific research underpins all the major developments in an increasingly technological age. It forms the core around which our industrial nation has been built and offers huge potential for developing our nation's commercial position in an aggressively competitive world-wide market place.
I have read with great interest the contributions to the Western Mail from esteemed academics from across Wales on the research projects their higher education (HE) institutions are undertaking in Wales.
Prof Colin Riordan from Cardiff University described some outstanding work in the field of medicine and vaccinations; Prof David Shepherd from Bangor University outlined impressive work being undertaken in the fields of environmental protection; and Prof Richard B Davies highlighted the good work being developed in Swansea University regarding materials research and testing.
Other contributors from previous articles have described a whole range of scientific research and development, much of which will bring significant benefits for not only Wales and the UK, but mankind as a whole.
Many of our established HE institutions are fortunate to be able to boast examples of outstanding research - from Nobel Laureates in Cardiff University to the award-winning Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (Ibers) in Aberystwyth.
Wales is leading the way in neuroscience at Cardiff and civil engineering at Swansea. We're playing a significant part in battling and curing disease, improving people's health and treatment, developing new methods of generating and harnessing renewable energy and pioneering new ways of feeding an expanding global population.
But it is not only in science that research scholarship is bringing attention to Wales. Swansea University showed how scholarship in the humanities can generate global interest, with the publication of Richard Burton's diaries recently.
Of course, we know we can still do better in Wales. Put simply, there is scope and opportunity to develop further the existing excellent research capacity we have in Wales and by doing so, we will realise the potential research capability of a nation of our size and aspirations and thus stamp our presence on the UK's research landscape.
The aim is straightforward: we want to expand excellent research in HE in Wales through strengthening the quality and quantity of the research base. We want to see Welsh universities recognised as leaders in their fields not only in the UK but across the globe.
Historically, we have had too many small-scale research units spread across different institutions in Wales. Many have not had the scale or strength to compete successfully for Research Council and other sources of external research income.
Research Councils have told us we need to be populating their committees with more of our senior academics.
Our policy document to further scientific endeavour, Science for Wales, identified, when it launched earlier in the year, that Wales won just 3.3% of UK Research Council funding in 2009-10. Greater than 5% is our target. Businesses in Wales generally invest less in research and development than the UK average, which is also a concern. …