90-million-pound investment for GW4 region to lead on global stage

June 29, 2020

GW4 Universities; Bristol, Bath and Cardiff, have received a major funding boost from UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund. The selected projects will supercharge our regional strengths to become global powerhouses in both digital media and compound semiconductor industries.

The University of Bristol, along with the University of Bath and other partners, are leading on a £46 million-pound visionary initiative called MyWorld. This project will set the South West on track to become an international trailblazer in screen-based media, launching a creative media powerhouse and boosting economic growth, generating more than 700 jobs.

A Cardiff University-led consortium will receive £43.7m to develop a Compound Semiconductor (CS) powerhouse in South Wales. Compound semiconductors are at the heart of many devices we use today, from smart phones to tablets, and are critical to the development of a range of technologies including the 5G network, electric vehicles, and next generation medical devices. The project, CSconnected, will integrate research excellence with the unique regional supply chains in advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing to create a world-leading cluster of excellence in CS technologies.

Dr Sarah Perkins, GW4 Director, said: “This funding announcement is fantastic news for our GW4 Universities, our region and our wider national and global networks. These projects showcase our regional strengths, exciting collaborations, research excellence and talent across the Alliance.

“We welcome the government’s placed-based approach to research and innovation funding and support their levelling-up agenda. We encourage further emphasis on placed-based initiatives and look forward to capitalising on these opportunities to ensure South Wales and South West England remain global leaders in research and innovation.”

Harnessing regional strengths

Both projects build on our globally recognised research strengths and regional assets.

Our region has a thriving creative industry and is home to two creative clusters. The MyWorld project will develop major new research and development facilities and partnerships connecting regional and national partners with global tech giants, including Netflix, Google, and Microsoft. This creative hub will pioneer new digital formats and technologies, creating innovative experiences across fiction, documentary, games, and live performance.

Wales is already home to the world’s first Compound Semiconductor cluster. Cardiff University’s Institute for Compound Semiconductors (ICS) provides cutting-edge facilities that enable researchers and industry to work together. Cardiff University is also currently building a new centre to innovate CS technologies. The Translational Research Facility will be home to state-of-the-art facilities that will allow ICS academics working hand in hand with industry to develop, test and manufacture CS devices.

Economic boost and Talent pipeline

The MyWorld project represents one of the largest single investments in creative industries funding ever awarded in the UK. The hub is projected to generate more than 700 new jobs and boost the economy by £223m. It will forge dynamic collaborations between world-leading academic institutions and creative industries including the BBC, Aardman Animations, BT, and Bristol Old Vic to progress technological innovation, creative excellence, inclusive cultures, and knowledge sharing.

The GW4 Alliance already attracts global talent through our externally funded highly competitive doctoral training programmes. GW4 provides a rich environment in which to develop the researchers and tomorrow and build a highly skilled workforce to deliver research-led solutions to real-world problems. The University of Bristol, in collaboration with the University of Bath, will provide advanced training programmes and talent development feeding into an extensive knowledge exchange network.

CSconnected will develop a global advantage in a key enabling technology which will allow the UK to increase trade globally in critical sectors such as communications, 5G, autonomous and electric vehicles and medical devices. The cluster already hosts 1,400 high value manufacturing jobs and this project will create thousands of new jobs and provide training to enhance skills across the region through a skills academy, bringing social and economic benefits to South Wales .

Importance of Place

The UKRI Strength in Places Fund (SIPF) is the only national competitive funding scheme that takes a place-based approach to research and innovation funding to support significant local economic growth.

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol, said: “This funding award is tremendous news for the University, the city of Bristol, and the entire South West region, particularly at a time of economic uncertainty that could hit the creative sector hard.

“In recent weeks, screen-based technologies have transformed the way we interact with each other professionally and personally, providing a lifeline in so many different ways. Uniting Bristol’s world-leading interdisciplinary research with the very best creative talent, locally and further afield, will strengthen and expand these relationships, allowing us to collectively cross new frontiers.”

Professor Colin Riordan, President and Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University said: “The Strength in Places funding will help CSconnected bring together combined public and private sector investment to build the CSconnected and wider supply chain, grow new companies and create high value jobs, innovation programmes and investment in skills that can help the region recover its strength after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

These initiatives are among seven projects nationally selected to share £186m government funding as part of the UKRI’s SIPF.

David Sweeney, Research England’s Executive Chair, who leads the Strength in Places Fund, said: “UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund is distinctive in specifically targeting investment to foster the local research and innovation ecosystems that can support sustained growth.

“All of these projects have the potential to deliver research and innovation that will transform activity within their target industries, in a way that is deeply rooted in local strengths and well linked to wider local economic plans.”

 

Learn more about MyWorld

Learn more about CSConnected