Cymru, Lloegr a'r Llwchwr

Cymru, Lloegr, a'r Llwchwr...

Helo! Croeso i’m blog newydd sy'n cymryd lle Yma byddaf yn rhoi'r byd yn ei le o safbwynt y De Orllewin. Bydd rhai sylwadau yn fwy cyffredinol na’i gilydd ond canolbwyntio ar wleidyddiaeth cig a gwaed sydd yn effeithio yn uniongyrchol ar bobl o’m cwmpas i yw'r bwriad. Gwyntyllu fy marn personol y byddaf i fan hyn wrth gwrs!

Hi! Welcome to my new blog which has replaced I'll be setting the world to right from the perspective of the South West. Some comments may be more general than others but my aim is to talk about everyday issues that directly affect people around me. Needless to say, the views expressed here will be purely mine.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Educating Rhian…

Rita: Have they sacked you?
Dr. Frank Bryant: I made rather a night of it last night so they're giving me a holiday. Two years in Australia.
Rita: Did you bugger the Bursar?
Dr. Frank Bryant: Metaphorically
Educating Rita

Fredrick Hayek (not a man I like) coined the terms ‘knowledge economy’ to describe a system where information about anything is sold as a commodity. We can all remember the burgeoning in the 1990s of cross-over enterprises in landscaped obscurity around our universities. All grassy humps and low-slung buildings.

Where knowledge that has no immediately apparent economic value is seen a valueless, the barbarians have arrived at the gate. But there is a huge up-side to crossover research for nimble, clever nations like ours. Our own research-driven industries would offer powerful levels of control as Welsh people became essential to new technologies – not eminently sack-able from ill-paid and environmentally destructive jobs.

Some of these are already with us… In Llanberis, Euro-DPC developed medical testing kits that were good enough to attract the attentions of Siemens. More unusually, when they were bought out, not only did the company stay, but it expanded to make the most of local expertise! At Biopharm in Pontarddulais they’ve been breeding medical leeches for 20 years that are used worldwide in advanced surgery.

This month’s unveiling of the Welsh Government’s Economic Development Strategy has some important things to say about the failure of previous Labour administrations to jump start our economy. It also makes a break with the previous direction by focusing on funding research and development. But the publication of the strategy also throws into relief a huge problem in keeping and using our brain power and that is the tiny share of UK research council spending that our Universities receive.

There are 7 UK Research Councils that aim to promote good research that benefits the economy. So what does Wales gain? Of £700 million spent by the Medical Research Council last year, 2.2% was spent in Wales!

The issue is that that Research Council money is not subject to any mechanism that distributes it by head of population - or even, whisper it quietly – according to need…

Research money needs to be distributed to the most able researchers but it is also distributed to meet government priorities. We already have different priorities than England’s. So why should our Welsh institutions not bid for a proportion of public money to meet our priorities and build own economy?

If just the Medical Research Council’s money was subject to the Barnett formula, we would receive 5.6% of the total spend - £40 million last year alone! Compare that with the £60 million annual deficit that Welsh universities recently told the Welsh Affairs Select Committee that they face. I’m not suggesting that research money should be used for anything other than research, but we need fairness in allocating it or our Universities won’t be able to do serious research at all.

The need for fair funding for research is urgent. Swansea University’s supercomputer Blue C can make research faster and more powerful. It needs to be used to its full potential by talented local researchers in the next few years, before the technology is over-taken. But Swansea, like all our Welsh universities is fighting against a system that rewards previous success and that responds to priorities that aren’t necessarily our own.

Did we bugger the Bursar? I'd say it was the other way around.

1 comment:

  1. Raped and pillaged is probably a more descriptive and accurate statement of what often happens to Wales economically.

    Time after time whenever a downturn hits England, Wales suffers, England sneezes and Wales catches the cold It was ever so. Why should it change? How can we prevent the constant cycle of boom and bust to coin a phrase?

    It will never change if the Welsh economy relies on handouts from England whether from the Barnett or any other formula.

    Uncomfortable as it may seem making Wales artificially attractive through building or subsidisation is not the answer, although any funding should be gratefully accepted.

    It is interesting to note that the Technium Project designed to attract Hi Tech business throughout Wales by providing the buildings for these companies has proved to be, I was going to say a glorious failure but that may be too harsh, disappointing in the creation of jobs for example in Llanelli 27 jobs created as opposed to 800 hoped for, but then what do you expect trying to attract jobs from a beleaguered economy?

    The key is to play to our strengths and create an economy that is not only based in Wales but is also created in Wales and the wealth created is re-invested in Wales.

    It is pointless to attract money into Wales and then not to use the benefits of this money by having grand building projects and then using the skill imported from outside Wales.

    The prime objective must be to create jobs in the community and not just because it is the cheapest labour for miles around but because it is the best.

    We all need to move away from the Consumer Led, Service Centre economics of the past and arrive at a position where Wales is the place to come to get the ideas, new industries, new inventions, re-vitalised mineral usage, new fashion, fresh design, farm produced products, financial services, top quality goods, a quality tourism experience, electricity production through solar, wind and tidal energies, engineering expertise etc., the list could be endless.

    Some of this may seem isolationist but you have to be successful internally before you can be successful externally.

    A question you might want to consider is how we can survive if we don’t have electricity, or computers, if we run out of food, run out of water. A doomsday scenario? Not according to our scientists.

    Perhaps what we should be doing is assuming that it could well happen and that we should prepare for it by creating the industries and infrastructure to allow us to not only survive but to thrive in a changing climate - saline plants, electric supply, food production etc. Wales could become a leader in this field and if doesn’t happen the surplus could be sold off making the country self reliant.

    So Cross Over Technology is key but it doesn’t only have to be at the University Level. We seem to think that it is only at the highest levels that we need to concentrate our energies for new ideas, new efficiencies in production techniques by using the experiences of the workforce and analysing it productively.
    Information Technology has been over hyped over the past 40 years and it does not create original thought.

    It is however the interpretation of the data processed that is key and computers cannot do this but we can.

    As with the Technium Project or the Super Computer at Swansea University, it is not good enough to only provide the environment for success you also have to drive it.

    If it doesn’t come from within then Wales will always be holding out the begging bowl expecting “just rights” which will not materialise.