Boost for innovation culture

31 January 2013

IBERS on Penglais Campus
IBERS on Penglais Campus

A new initiative to transfer more of Wales’ cutting-edge university research into business to help boost Wales’ economy and build an ‘innovation culture’ has received a funding boost from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).

The HEFCW funded project will see Wales’ leading St David’s Day Group of research intensive universities - Cardiff, Aberystwyth, Bangor, Glamorgan and Swansea - join forces to create a new network of staff to better identify, protect and commercialise Wales’ leading research.

The project will strengthen the group’s capabilities in the commercialisation of intellectual property and create an effective network to increase technology transfer between universities and Welsh businesses in support of the Welsh Government’s aims.

It will also forge close links with key industry sectors in Wales in order to create an integrated structure for the commercialisation of new technologies within Wales and internationally.

The project is being led by Cardiff University. Cardiff’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Enterprise, Professor Chris McGuigan said:  “Welsh universities already have a tradition for turning new technology and ideas from an academic setting into new and cutting-edge businesses – but we must do more.”

“The new St David’s Day Group project – the first of its kind for the Group - will help bring Wales’ leading research intensive universities together to create a team capable of firstly identifying and then increasing technology transfer.

”Over the lifetime of the project, it will also help members of the St David’s Day Group forge closer links with key industry sectors in Wales – which is to be warmly welcomed,” he added. 

Dr David Blaney, Chief Executive of HEFCW, said: “I am pleased that the universities of the St David’s Day Group have come together to explore new models for commercialising intellectual property in Wales. 

“The IP system is invaluable in translating the research work done in universities into something tangible that can also reap economic benefits or have positive implications for society more widely.

“The expertise required to do this is not inconsiderable. Creating a network of Technology Transfer Officers will not only benefit the universities involved and the companies or organisations they work with; it will also hit one of the key priorities set out in the Welsh Government’s Science For Wales strategy, and ensure that the wider economy derives maximum benefit from IP produced in Wales’s universities.”

Scientists at Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) are working with a number of commercial partners to improve meat hygiene and reduce outbreaks of serious infections such as E.coli.

Using naturally occurring chlorophyll-based markers which can be added to animal feed, the Aberystwyth team are developing technology that makes it possible to identify meat that has been contaminated by animal waste during processing.  The markers are identified using fluorescent imaging.

The work is supported by British Chlorophyll Co Ltd, Castell Howell Foods Ltd, Randall Parker Foods Ltd (Abattoir), Waitrose Ltd and Wynnstay Group PLC (Feed Manufacturers).

The work is being led by Dr Michael Lee at IBERS: "It’s great that Aberystwyth University and its partners are working positively on something that has the potential to make a real difference. The possible benefits are significant - for meat producers, abattoirs, supermarkets and ultimately of course, the consumer.”

Dr James Hudson, Technology Transfer Manager at Aberystwyth University said; “The strength of the St David’s Day Project is that each institution is willing and able to bring a particular strength in relation to IP commercialisation to the table.  During the Project a programme of sharing this best practice will be run that will allow each partner to gain valuable new expertise from the others.”

Chris Drew, Deputy Head at the Aberystwyth and Bangor University Strategic Alliance said: "This programme builds on existing collaborative work between Bangor and Aberystwyth Universities under the Strategic Alliance between the two institutions. I am delighted that we can join this broader consortium to further enhance capability and capacity. Each institution has its own unique opportunities but the challenges of exploiting them are often common across projects and the higher education sector. I believe this project will boost our ability to face those challenges and identify more opportunities for exploiting the excellent research and expertise in our institutions."

The St David’s Day Declaration was signed in 2009 by Cardiff, Aberystwyth, Bangor, Glamorgan and Swansea universities. The declaration marked a new chapter in supporting the knowledge economy in Wales.

Working together as five universities they represent over 70% of all students in Wales and more than 95% of the nation’s research activity.

Building on their combined strengths, the declaration aims to bring together the five Universities and use the talents of staff and students to help drive forward the knowledge economy in Wales.

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