Working together to lay the tracks for ‘Great West’ success

Working together to lay the tracks for ‘Great West’ success

25 Jan, 2017

By Dr. Sarah Perkins

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Senior representatives of universities, major organisations and LEPs recently travelled to Westminster to share their ambitions for a productive and prosperous South West England and South East Wales region. Many of us travelled on the very rail network that laid the foundations for our region’s success. Isambard Kingdom Brunel envisioned a highly connected region powered by innovative industrial solutions, and made it happen. Now we hope to follow in the footsteps of such giants to drive forward our ambitious vision for the region.

Collaboration is at the heart of this vision, and the South West England and South East Wales Science and Innovation Audit is a testament to the value of truly collaborative working. The Audit is, as Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell said earlier today, the “most important evaluation ever undertaken of our region’s research and industrial capacity”. It demonstrated how our region can make the UK a global leader in Advanced Engineering and Digital Innovation, outlining assets including the UK’s largest aerospace sector and second largest digital economy cluster (outside London). I would encourage you to explore this fantastic report in full at our SWW-SIA pages. But the Audit’s findings are not the end of the story.

The Audit brought together a unique combination of influential actors across academia, industry and local government. It has undoubtedly strengthened relationships that existed already and forged links where there were none. Already we are beginning to harvest the fruit of these relationships: cross-sector R&D projects, commercialisation work, skills training and more.

If we work together, the opportunities for South West England and South East Wales are clear – the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper published earlier this week emphasised the importance of driving up productivity across the whole of the UK, capitalising on the distinct strengths of its regions. The ‘ten pillars’ of the Industrial Strategy focus on collaboration, research and innovation excellence, skills, infrastructure and place-based growth. The groundwork is already underway, catalysed by the Audit, to support the Government to deliver their Modern Industrial Strategy.

For the GW4 Alliance, the Industrial Strategy signals the importance of working with partners across the region to deliver world-leading research and innovation at scale. Last week we announced that we had received a £3m award from EPSRC to work with Cray and the Met Office to develop a ‘first of its kind’ supercomputer that will benefit scientists across the UK. We are also building on the rich legacy of the REACT project, a knowledge exchange hub for the creative economy, to develop new mechanisms of working between academia and industry across the South West and Wales, funded by the AHRC. Researchers will work with organisations including the BBC, British Museum, National Trust, English Heritage and CADW, as well as SMEs and local authorities to refine innovative methods of co-production and test new technologies to benefit creative industries across the UK.

We believe that these two projects embody the aims of the Industrial Strategy – not only delivering globally significant scientific breakthroughs, but also delivering ”effective adoption of technology throughout businesses and improvements in management and workforce skills”.

Our founding ethos at the GW4 Alliance is “open, collaborative, resourceful”. Led by this outlook, we look forward to continuing to work with the Science and Innovation Audit consortium and emerging partners to deliver on our ambitious vision for the region. Working together, we are confident that the ‘Great West’ region can make the UK a global leader.