A business-engaged university

Swansea University acting director of research and innovation, Ceri Jones, outlines the University’s key role in supporting regional growth

In my capacity as the acting director of Swansea University’s Department of Research and Innovation, one of my commitments is to support the University in its strategic role to drive economic growth within our region and beyond. The University places innovation and research at the heart of its growth strategy and our approach to working with a range of strategic stakeholders such as the EU, regional and national government and the private sector has developed significantly over the last decade. 

The Department of Research and Innovation (DRI) at the University offers a wide range of services to industry, stakeholders and staff. This support will typically include the profiling, delivery and promotion of the University’s research and innovation services in collaboration with research groups and major projects within our seven Colleges. The University is well versed in developing a solution that is right for the business – we can offer everything from the provision of a solution to a straightforward technical business issue via bespoke consultancy, or for more sophisticated developments we can assist in the facilitation of long-term strategic partnerships. If it is funding that is required, then the Department works very closely with researchers and external stakeholders to help unlock access to collaborative funding streams. We have recently expanded our offer to include a leadership development programme, LEAD Wales, a flagship initiative designed to support owner-managers and leaders of small- to medium-size businesses improve business performance. Strategically placed alongside LEAD Wales we have a collection of key business-facing projects including the Dragon Innovation Partnership (regional HE collaboration project) and Enterprise Europe Network Wales.

Through the presence of the Department of Research and Innovation, the University has co-located research development services with the engagement infrastructure that we have created to enable external organisations to access our research and expert knowledge. This concept is very strong as it empowers the institution to retain a robust focus on the impact of our research and to maximise the potential for knowledge exchange with external collaborators.

In July 2013, construction work started on Swansea University’s Bay Campus on the shore on Swansea Bay. For Wales, it is a unique collaboration between the University and major businesses with funding from the EU and both the Welsh and UK Governments, and it is truly one of the leading knowledge economy projects in the UK.

Its £250m first phase, which will be completed by 2015, will consist of an extensive engineering quarter housing world-class research facilities for industry, a new School of Management and Students’ Union, state-of-the-art learning and teaching facilities, a library and student residences. At the epicentre of the new Bay Campus will be the Great Hall with large lecture theatres and an auditorium for 1,000 people which will allow the University to host international conferences, concerts and enhance its cultural offer.

The Bay Campus is part of Swansea University’s transformational campus development and expansion programme which has already taken place in the building of the medical quarter and enhancement of facilities at Singleton Park Campus. The programme is part of the University’s strategy to become a top 30 University in the UK.

The massive investment will enable us to grow our research strengths further and mobilise them more effectively to support local and multinational companies, attracting inward investment to Wales and promoting the growth of high-technology clusters.

More than £3bn will be contributed to the regional economy in the next 10 years thanks to the new campus, creating thousands of jobs and further enhancing Swansea University’s reputation as a major institution for science and technology research.

The University’s model of ‘co-locating’ business activity with teaching and research together has been highlighted as ‘a model to be replicated throughout Europe’ in a June 2013 briefing at the European Parliament in Brussels. On a smaller scale, this model can already be seen operating successfully in the Institute of Life Science on the University’s Singleton Campus.

The government’s growing emphasis on impact reflects a guiding principle that informs our campus development programme: applied researchers working with multinational companies and SMEs together with the availability of talented graduates will help bring growth and prosperity to the region. Research and innovation together are, therefore, part of the fabric of Swansea University’s engagement with stakeholders and strategic partners.

Ceri Jones is acting director of research and innovation at Swansea University. He is a member of the Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA) UK.

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