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Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS) at Cardiff University


Ysgoloriaethau Sgiliau'r Economi Gwybodaeth

Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS)  ESF logo




The Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS) project will support collaborative Doctoral and Research Masters awards in Welsh Universities, jointly sponsored by partners who are based in the Convergence areas of Wales*. Students who receive KESS funding must also come from the Convergence areas of Wales*. (*as defined below).   

KESS aims to support the transformation of Wales’ economy into one based on knowledge and skills. The key objectives of KESS are to:

  • Increase the research capacity of organisations by linking with a PhD / Masters project;
  • Encourage organisations to undertake research and recruit researchers;
  • Prepare and train individuals to contribute to research as professionals;
  • Support the development of key technologies in the Convergence area;
  • Promote Higher-level Skills Development.

KESS is funded under the European Social Fund (ESF) Convergence Programme by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO).  



KESS is a collaboration between nine Welsh Universities, led by Bangor University. Each partner University is responsible for identifying suitable projects and external partners, and for recruiting students to those projects, within their total allocation of awards. Further details on the overall programme and other participating Universities can be found at: 



Cardiff has now allocated funding to all its available awards, and no further calls for project applications from Schools or academic supervisors are anticipated under this programme.




A number of our on-going KESS Projects have attracted media attention.  To read more, click here



Scholarships were open to all Academic Schools on a competitive basis. Potential academic supervisors were invited to apply for a scholarship with an eligible partner based in the Convergence area, providing an outline of the proposed research project that demonstrates fit to KESS criteria. Applications were assessed by a KESS Allocation Panel.  Cardiff University ran five separate calls and assessment rounds for projects, and we have now allocated all our available awards to 28 PhD projects.



External partners must have an “operational base” in the Convergence areas of Wales*.  All types of organisations are eligible to participate as partners (micro, small, medium, large companies, and third sector), but it is expected that the overall portfolio of partners will be weighted towards SMEs.  

Student Eligibility

1.Students must have an address in the Convergence area of Wales* at the time of their application for KESS funding with a University, as well as the right to work in the Convergence area on completion of the scholarship.

*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.  See WEFO map.

2. Students must have the right to take up paid work in the Convergence areas of Wales* on completion of the scholarship, and be classified by the University as ‘home’ or ‘EU’ according to the University’s guidelines.

3. Students must satisfy Cardiff University's admissions criteria (as outlined in the Code of Practice for Research Degrees) - applicants for research PhDs will be expected to have one or both of the following: i) a first degree, normally with class 2:1 or equivalent in a relevant subject; ii) a relevant Master's qualification or equivalent.

Funding: A scholarship provides a student stipend (c.£13-14k p/a), plus a total of £15k spread across travel, training, consumables and equipment budget headings (see Academic Factsheet for breakdown).  KESS student fees are not eligible costs, and must be funded by the School(s) supervising the student.  Academic and company supervisors must contribute their time as in-kind match funding, and are required to submit monthly timesheets to satisfy ESF audit requirements.

Cost to partners: Partner contributions will vary depending on nature of the project, but are set at minimum total contributions of £3,750 in-kind and £7,500 in cash.  This company cash does not come back to Schools, but forms part of the total match-funding contribution to the overall KESS Project. Participating academic supervisors, students and external partners will all be required to submit monthly timesheets to satisfy ESF audit requirements.

Postgraduate Skills Award: KESS scholars will be required to undertake skills training towards a KESS Postgraduate Skills Award (PSA) developed by Bangor.

Intellectual Property: must be owned by the University in order to comply with European State Aid provisions. Partners can obtain an exclusive or non-exclusive licence, charged at market rates, to exploit IP. Examples of company funding agreements are available. 

Types of project: Proposed research projects must demonstrate an on-going benefit to the Convergence area at application stage. Projects are encouraged from the following sectors: Digital Economy (ICT); Low Carbon Economy; Health and Bioscience; Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing, but projects outside these sectors can be considered (see Factsheet for further details).  

Further  information on KESS Scholarships for award holders can be obtained from the KESS Project Manager (details below).



Queries in relation to the KESS project at Cardiff University can be directed to:

KESS Project Manager: Dr Keith Sexton

Research Development, Research and Commercial Division (RACDV)

tel: 02920 879288 / internal x79288 / e-mail: