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Enhancing UK research and innovation clusters

6 October 2023

Aerial photograph of South Wales community.
The projects will bring short- and long-term benefits to regional and local economies and communities including new jobs, skills development, private investment, growth of SMEs, and more.

Cardiff University researchers will receive a share of £41 million in funding for projects aimed at boosting UK economic growth and addressing regional needs.

The ten projects will combine some of the country’s leading engineering and physical sciences research with the ambitions of civic bodies and local business to enhance regional economic capability.

Over the next four years, they will help established research and innovation clusters expand and emerging clusters to develop.

The projects, led by consortia across the UK, are funded through a new scheme called Place Based Impact Acceleration Account (PBIAA) by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

A partner on three of the ten projects to receive funding, Cardiff University will contribute its research expertise to enable growth of a South Wales Compound Semiconductor cluster as well as playing key roles in low carbon projects that will lead to green hydrogen as an energy source and net zero buildings.

The South Wales Compound Semiconductor Place Based Impact Accelerator is led by Cardiff University’s Institute for Compound Semiconductors with support from Swansea University.

The Accelerator will address the shortage of skilled staff, the biggest single factor limiting the growth of the South Wales semiconductor cluster, by:

  • upskilling staff in existing companies with high-level, specialist, practical skills
  • training new entrants to the compound semiconductors workforce
  • inspiring a greater number of entrants to the workforce

Working with partners including the GW4 alliance and Welsh collaborators, Cardiff University is a member of the Great Western Supercluster of Hydrogen Impact for Future Technologies (GW-SHIFT).

Led by the University of Bath and supported by experts at Cardiff University’s Net Zero Innovation Institute, GW-SHIFT will drive a place-based supercluster across South West England and South Wales, accelerating the impact of research and innovation in low carbon hydrogen and working towards the UK’s Net Zero 2050 target.

It will contribute to key government strategies and targets for a low carbon hydrogen future, including:

  • increasing UK hydrogen production capacity by 2030
  • creating 40,000 new jobs and safeguarding 60,000 existing jobs
  • stimulating economic growth through £13 billion gross value added by 2050

Experts in building design and retrofit for energy efficiency from Cardiff University’s School of Engineering and the Welsh School of Architecture will also support the SWITCH to Net Zero Buildings project.

Led by Swansea University and involving civic and commercial partners, this project builds on the success of FLEXIS and will focus on removing the barriers to the adoption of net zero buildings.

The project aims to:

  • stimulate economic growth, generating over 1,800 skilled jobs
  • enable £490 million of public and private sector investment over 15 years

Professor Roger Whitaker, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Enterprise, said: “We welcome these flagship investments and are excited to have the opportunity to work with our regional academic, civic and industry partners to enable further growth of the South Wales semiconductor cluster as well as supporting sustainable new energy futures and net zero buildings.

“This is an excellent example of Cardiff University’s important role as a global-civic university, cocreating with partners for local impact on challenges of international interest and relevance. I look forward to these projects delivering social, economic and environmental benefits including new jobs, skills development, private investment, SME growth and more for South Wales and the West.”

Professor Roger Whitaker Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Enterprise, Professor of Collective Intelligence

The investment in these projects creates a further opportunity for academics and civic actors to collaborate and support the development of local industry and places.

Science Minister, George Freeman, said: “South Wales is a growing hub for sectors of the future, playing a pivotal role on our journey to net zero buildings, driving forward the UK’s hydrogen economy and through its pioneering semiconductor companies.

“Our more than £9m investment in projects led by Cardiff and Swansea universities will support comprehensive training and thousands of new jobs, while laying the groundwork that brings further private investment for years to come – growing the economies of Wales and the wider UK.”

Professor Miles Padgett, Interim Executive Chair at EPSRC, said: “I’m pleased to announce our first ten Place Based Impact Acceleration Accounts which will play a unique role in enhancing the capabilities of innovation clusters across the UK. A key priority for UKRI is to strengthen clusters and partnerships in collaboration with civic bodies and businesses, thereby driving regional economic growth.”

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