Science stars

27 September 2012

L to R. Professor John Harries, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Welsh Government, Professor Wayne Powell, Director of IBERS, Welsh Government Minister Edwina Hart AM and Professor April McMahon, Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University.
L to R. Professor John Harries, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Welsh Government, Professor Wayne Powell, Director of IBERS, Welsh Government Minister Edwina Hart AM and Professor April McMahon, Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University.

On Thursday 27 September, Edwina Hart, Welsh Government Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science came to Aberystwyth to launch a new £50m fund to attract some of the world’s greatest scientific minds to Wales.

‘Stars Wales’/’Sêr Cymru’ aims to enhance research excellence by attracting world-class science researchers and their teams to Wales for a minimum period of five years and to increase Wales’ cut of the UK Research Council’s funding to 5% from its current 3.4%.

The campaign will support the establishment of a collaborative national research network in each of the areas of advanced engineering and materials, life sciences and health; and low carbon, energy and environment.

These are the three ‘Grand Challenge’ areas highlighted in the Government’s ‘Science for Wales’ strategy which was launched earlier this year. 

A Director will be appointed to each network and the Welsh Government foresees that the stars will be appointed as Research Chairs and their research excellence will fall within the three areas cited above.

The Welsh Government funding over five years will be used to provide specialist equipment, bring the salary to the level a ‘star’ academic would merit and fund appropriate members of their teams.

The Welsh Government is calling for universities across Wales to use this opportunity to become more ambitious and more collaborative in their approach to making funding bids in order to increase their volume of competitively-awarded research.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Edwina Hart said: "Science and innovation are key pillars of a thriving economy. Boosting our science research capability is vital to improving our economic wellbeing and securing a more prosperous, healthy and sustainable future for Wales.

"IBERS is an excellent example of what Welsh Universities are capable of achieving. With its world-class award winning research and innovation it has become an internationally recognised centre of excellence in recent years.

"We do have a lot to be proud of but we now need to build on our science base and develop a dynamic and strong network that supports the economic and national development of Wales."

Vice Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Professor April McMahon commented: "We wholeheartedly welcome the new support and promotion of science and research in Wales through the Sêr Cymru programme. At Aberystwyth University we already have a wealth of research which makes a global impact, and attracting more world leading colleagues and their research to Welsh universities will enhance and further develop our science and research areas.

"We are particularly delighted to be hosting the launch at Aberystwyth University and look forward to participating in the programme."
The aim is to have at least one research ‘star’ with accompanying team in post next year, with the remaining appointments made over a period of one to two years.

Welsh Government funding will be up to £6 million per annum for five years. Arrangements for continued funding will form part of the negotiations during the selection process. Requirements for each individual ‘star’ or Chair with respect to support staff, facilities and relocation expenses will be negotiated on a case by case basis. During these negotiations the financial contributions by the host institutions and the Welsh Government to the Research Chairs will be agreed.

Stars Wales/Sêr Cymru resources may also be used to support the nurturing of existing research staff to a higher status, but only if it can be demonstrated that in doing so there will be additional outputs and measures that are recognized as true excellence.

Those recruited will be expected to engage strongly with and contribute to the National Research Networks. Individuals may have their own Ph.D. students from previous funding, or as a part of the Research Chair package, but they will be encouraged to engage with and utilize the resources of the Doctoral Graduate Schools.

Funding for all the National Research Networks will be up to £4 million per annum for five years and will cover core staff, a Doctoral Graduate School and knowledge transfer and exchange activites.

For more on Wales’ Science Strategy, visit: www.wales.gov.uk/sercymru  

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