NCUB’s strategic adviser, Graeme Reid, led a high profile review of Government-funded research and innovation in Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government. The Welsh Government published Professor Reid’s review along with a written statement to the Welsh Parliament on 6 June 2018.
He said: “With continuing pressures on public finance, significant reforms to higher and further education, and fast-approaching changes in UK and EU funding, this was an opportune moment to review Government-funded research and innovation in Wales, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to lead that work. The growing UKRI budget now presents major opportunities for Welsh businesses and universities to win sizeable amounts of additional Given continuing funding, which can help ensure Wales increases its competitiveness in the research and innovation sector.”
The review builds on NCUB’s recent task force report “Growing Value Wales”. The Reid review refers to that work widely and draws on some of the evidence gathered for NCUB’s project.
Professor Reid consulted widely during his review. He received many ideas and tested them against three principles.
- Welsh resources must be focused on things that only the Welsh government can fund. Don’t spend scarce money on things that somebody else could support.
- Ensure that funding delivers not only research or innovation projects, but also wider objectives such as raising productivity, which is lower than the UK average.
- Ensure that the Welsh government doesn’t just replace lost EU money but enables Wales to win much more from UK-wide funding competitions.
Wales has almost 5 per cent of the UK population, but only 1 per cent of the seats on the councils and board within UKRI. Scotland has 8 per cent of the population, but 11 per cent of the seats. This is not about Welsh lobbying. It is about having a UK-wide appreciation of Wales’s ambitions and concerns, just as Scotland has achieved.
Reid recommends that Welsh government should open a research and innovation office in London to get under the skin of policymaking. Instead of waiting for a new funding call from London, Welsh researchers should be part of its conception.
The size of the quality-related block-grant is highly correlated with overall research income for both universities and UK nations. QR funding allows universities to nurture talent, work with businesses and charities and explore emerging, cross-disciplinary research, as well as providing the capacity to compete for funding. QR funding in Wales, which is controlled by the Welsh government, accounts for less than 4 per cent of the UK total. Wales captures about 3.5 per cent of UK research funding. The Scottish Government provides around 13 per cent of QR funding and Scotland wins 13 per cent of total research funding.
Professor Reid proposes that Welsh Government should first bring QR funding up to parity with the rest of the UK. He recommends it should introduce an additional funding stream—the Future of Wales Fund—worth £30 million a year to encourage Welsh researchers to capture more in UK-wide funding competitions. This additional funding should be allocated to universities in proportion to the extra funding they secure in competitions from outside Wales.
Despite encountering many exciting innovation initiatives across Wales, Professor Reid could not identify a single, coherent innovation strategy spanning the whole Welsh Government. He therefore recommends a single narrative covering every part of Welsh Government support for innovation. Innovation support should be presented as one fund—the St David’s Investment Fund—even if the money is managed in different parts of the Welsh government. Spending need not increase; what’s needed is coherence of presentation, so that businesses can see the full range of support and the environment in which they are investing.
Professor Reid is no stranger to research and innovation policy, having been a senior civil servant in the Department of Business and Innovation and Skills before being appointed Professor of Science and Research Policy at University College London. He is a member of the UK Government’s High Level Group on Brexit, universities, research and innovation. He advised the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee during its extensive inquiries into science and Brexit and more recently on its inquiries into the Government’s industrial strategy. Two years ago he led a review of Innovation Centres in Scotland for the Scottish Funding Council.
Commenting on the report’s findings, NCUB chief executive David Docherty said: “Professor Reid’s review is a thorough and imaginative approach to a pressing set of challenges facing Welsh innovation, research, and business-university collaboration. And I strongly commend recommendations that fit strongly with the NCUB’s call for a new National Innovation Compact for Wales.”