CHAMPIONING RESEARCH AND INNOVATION IN THE GREAT WEST

March 15, 2017
Dr. Sarah Perkins

Research in the UK looks set to be galvanised by new funding and commitment to place-based innovation. Greg Clark MP has called for “local industrial strategies” and we believe that the Great West is in a prime position to deliver on this vision.

The world-leading research and industry strengths of South West England and South East Wales – Advanced Engineering and Digital Innovation – reflect our heritage as the birthplace of technological achievement. We are the proud inheritors of Brunel’s innovative spirit, with a highly connected region leading the way in future-facing industries.

The Great West has the largest aerospace sector in the UK and the second largest digital economy in the UK outside London. Global corporations such as Airbus and Oracle call our region home alongside thriving start-ups and tech communities.

With such strong foundations, it was no surprise that Bristol was one of the only cities in the UK to over-perform the national average for productivity per capita.

In our region, industry expertise is accelerated by world-leading academic research. The GW4 Alliance, which brings together four research-intensive universities, Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter, has the highest research power of any university alliance in the UK. Working collaboratively, we are identifying and delivering great research at scale, building a pipeline of talent and bringing pioneering equipment and facilities to our doorstep.

We also lead the Great West Taskforce, bringing together LEPs, major organisations and academic partners to champion research and innovation for the region. Together we delivered the landmark report on the region’s strengths and assets, the South West England and South East Wales Science and Innovation Audit.

The Audit signalled the step-change investment opportunities in the region such as Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult, and funding for the proposed Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS), the Institute for Environmental Risk and Innovation and Composites Excellence – with National Composites Materials Centre.

These projects are already proving vital to the post-Brexit economy. The Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult, drawing upon university and industry expertise, will bring the centre of gravity for developing this technology from South California to South Wales. The Government believes that the market for compound semiconductors is set to be in the range of £75 billion to £125 billion by 2025.

Our response to the Industrial Strategy Green Paper will showcase our region’s research and industrial strengths, and will also highlight areas which we believe should be given more prominence, such as climate change. The Great West is home to more climate expertise than any other area worldwide and we believe that investing in this challenge could secure the prosperity of future generations.

The next few months will be critical as the UK Government further develops the detail of the Industrial Strategy, and we will report back on the work of the Great West Taskforce, led by the GW4 Alliance, to engage with this process.

We are proud to realise the scale of this region’s ambition and will work hard to ensure that the voice of the Great West is heard loud and clear at Westminster.

An edited version of this post appeared in the March edition of The House magazine.