Knowledge Exchange Skills Scholarships (KESS)

Knowledge Exchange Skills Scholarships (KESS)


KESS supports Research Masters and PhD students to conduct collaborative research projects with business partners. Companies benefit from students working on their businesses' challenges, along with the expertise of academic supervisors. For students, the industry experience is an invaluable boost to their research skills and enhances their employability. KESS students are awarded a Postgraduate Skills Development Award in addition to their academic qualification to acknowledge the extra training and benefits of the programme.

Led by Bangor University, and working in partnership with the Universities of Swansea, Aberystwyth, Cardiff, Glyndŵr, Cardiff Metropolitan, Trinity Saint David and the University of South Wales, the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS) programme uses Welsh Government European Social Funds to support more than 450 collaborative university-business research projects in West Wales and the Valleys.

"KESS provides businesses with an opportunity that more of them should consider."

Leisure, energy and food companies are among those who have taken part in the scheme.

Tracey Anthony is a Company Partner at Food Dudes, a social enterprise that works to improve children's health and diet:  

"All our KESS students have been great. They have all relished the opportunity to get to grips with something that is not just a theoretical project, but a real-world applied project that is going to deliver results and have an impact for the greater good of society.

"For us as a company one of the key memories of our KESS experience will be the positive attitude of the students and the excitement that they get from having the opportunity to work with us."

"KESS provides businesses with an opportunity that more of them should consider. It’s a great way for them to engage with Universities.  In a lot of instances people say that they can’t be bothered with the paperwork, but this is one particular funding initiative that is certainly worth the effort. Anything that is going to develop the employees of the future, which is what we’re doing, I think is a really good thing.”


left to right : Richard Tomlinson, Chris Morris, Dr John Walsh and First Minister Carwyn Jones

Dr Prysor Williams from Bangor University supervised Dr John Walsh's research project with Fre-Energy on anaerobic digestion, the chemical reaction by which bacteria break down natural waste – and a potential source of renewable energy. He described how John benefitted from the experience:

"John didn’t actually have any practical experience of working in laboratories…I remember the first time John entered the lab, he wasn’t very comfortable and I wasn't very comfortable to see him entering the lab either; however, he received training and over time he became adept in labwork.” 

"John had a great deal of positive experiences while he was completing his PhD that he would not have had if it were not for the KESS project; of course he had to spend some time with the company as part of the KESS scheme but he had a chance to write reports for them and so on."    

"It helped John to think constantly 'what research am I doing? How can it be of benefit to industry, and is it relevant to industry?'"

You can hear Dr John Walsh's thoughts on the project here.

Interdisciplinarity
"It was a great experience to be working on an interdisciplinary level with people who have totally different academic backgrounds"

Because the research questions for KESS projects come from business, working to solve them can help break down barriers within the university. Dr Prysor Williams explains:

"While working on the KESS project with John, we worked with economists in the University; given that this is not an area that I had worked in before, I worked with some colleagues for the first time. This has certainly broadened my research horizons."  

"We would be much more confident now as a School to develop collaborative research projects that encompass an element of economics, I now have the contacts to make such a project work."

Catrin Wager, a student who worked with the National Trust, had a similarly positive experience of working outside her field:

"It was a great experience to be working on an interdisciplinary level with people who have totally different academic backgrounds, are of a different age and have a broad range of experiences and to become aware of the universal transferrable skills that we all need, understand how we could support each other and identify different issues in our own approaches to problem solving."

You can find out more about KESS on their website, Twitter and YouTube.

Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS) is a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valley.

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Related pages:

Bangor University

KESS website (external link)

NCUB Knowledge Exchange Research

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