Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships

Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS II) is a major pan-Wales operation supported by European Social Funds (ESF) through the Welsh Government which links companies and organisation with academic expertise in the Higher Education sector in Wales to undertake collaborative research projects. Following the highly successful KESS project between 2009 and 2014, KESS II is now in the second round of funding and will provide 645 scholarship over the course of the operation.

What type of organisations can participate?

A range of companies and organisations can participate in KESS II, including Micro companies, SMEs, Large companies, Third Sector and Social Enterprises. To be eligible you must have an operational presence in the Convergence region (West Wales and the Valleys). All KESS scholarships are integrated with a high-level skills training programme for the participating student, leading to a Postgraduate Skills Development Award, which will address any knowledge gaps. Any proposed research project must also demonstrate an on-going benefit to the Convergence area at the application stage.

Why Choose KESS II

Each project is specifically designed to meet your company's needs. The project is then carried out by a dedicated student at Research Masters or PhD level, who is supported by both the company and the relevant University. Here are just some of the benefits of participating in KESS II:

  • The opportunity to test claims, perceptions and experiences regarding your product, service or brand.
  • Research that you can shape, with the support of an academic, to suit your company needs.
  • Position your organisation as a voice of authority and market leader in your sector.
  • A dedicated student, supervised by an academic, to work on an area specific to your business.
  • Very low entry cost for the potential return your project could bring.


Research projects must also fit with the Welsh Government's priority sectors:

  • ICT & Digital Economy
    • Example Project: Global digital tourism practice and economic development for UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Life Sciences & Health
    • Example Project: Development of innovative technologies in women's health for clinical diagnosis of infertility and gynaecological cancer
  • Low Carbon, Energy & Environment
    • Example Project: Breeding blight resistant potatoes
  • Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing
    • Example Project: Development of products for controlled releasing topical and transdermal drugs using nano/micro-encapsulation and micro-needles

Project proposals need to be scoped by a Aberystwyth University academic and a company partner – with the project focusing on addressing a company need.

To be eligible for ESF funding projects must adhere to the following criteria:

  • Be scoped in partnership with a company partner.
  • Project activity must be in the convergence region of Wales.
  • The company partner will have to contribute an annual cash contribution between £3.5k - £4.5k +VAT (depending on company size).
  • Projects must fit within one of the WG 'grand challenge' areas.
  • Must lead to a Research Masters or PhD qualification. A student must not already hold a degree at this level beforehand.
  • Must be completed in 3.5 years for PhD; 1year 3 months for Research Masters.

Once proposed projects have been approved, a scholarship will be offered.


The scholarship offers the eligible participant (student):

  • A monthly stipend in line with RCUK rates: 3 years of funding @ £14,340 per year for PhD; one year funding @ £11,472 for Research Masters.
  • University tuition fees are waived by Aberystwyth University.
  • An opportunity to access a suite of higher level skills training and attendance at a residential KESS Grad School. All participants must complete the KESS Postgraduate Skills Development Award.
  • A minimum of 30 days a year working with the company partner on their allocated project.
  • Standard KESS budget for other research project related costs (travel, consumables and equipment).
  • Student must complete and submit their thesis in 3.5 years for PhD; 1year 3 months for Research Masters.

Applicants should be resident in the convergence area of Wales on appointment, and should have the right to work in the region on qualification.

 What is the next deadline for Project Proposals?

The next deadline for Project Proposals is the 8th Februray 2018. 


Please consult KESS II Company Factsheet for more details


How much will it cost?

Partner Organisations are required to make cash contributions. Costs will vary depending on the size and type of organisation. 

Please note that the illustration costs below are per annum, and will require x3 years for PhD's and x1 year for Research Masters:

Type of organisationNo. of employeesCash Contribution *
Micro <10 £3.5k
Small <50 £3.5k
Medium <250 £4k
Large >250 £4.5k
Third Sector   Dependent on size
Public Sector   £4.5k

* Cash contributions are subject to VAT

KESS2 & Sustainability 

THe KESS2 project is comitted to operating in a sustainable manner. We are working towards ensuring that our team, students and all of our partners are able to demonstrate that we are giving meaningful consideration to the well-being of current and future generations in all we do, so that we can live, work and create a Wales we want. For futher details, please visit the Sustainability pages of the KESS2 website.


KESSII is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) through the European Union’s Convergence programme administered by the Welsh Government.

*The Convergence area covers West Wales and the Valleys, and is made up of the following 15 local authorities: Isle of Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil, Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen.