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Written Statement  - Progress on Aspects of Science for Wales

Edwina Hart, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport 

We have already seen two star research chair appointments under Science for Wales’ flagship Sêr Cymru initiative.

Professor Yves Barde, announced last June, from the Biozentrum at the University of Basel, has taken up his post as Sêr Cymru Research Chair in Neurobiology in the Cardiff University School of Biosciences.

Secondly, Professor James Durrant from Imperial College London, holds the new Sêr Cymru Solar Energy Research Chair. He leads the new Sêr Solar, a world-class dedicated research facility based alongside and working closely with Swansea University’s SPECIFIC project at the Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC), Baglan Energy Park. This is a unique partnership between universities in Wales (led by Swansea) and Imperial College, London. Other researchers from Imperial (home to the UK’s largest research group dedicated to the development of new solar technologies) such as leading solar energy researcher Professor Jenny Nelson, are forming, with Welsh researchers, a research centre, led by Swansea University and including Bangor University and the Welsh School of Architecture. His appointment was formally announced last October.

I am delighted then to announce, formally, a third appointment, that of Professor Andrew Barron as a Sêr Cymru Research Chair in Low Carbon, Energy and Environment, based with Swansea University. He comes from Rice University in Houston, Texas where he holds the Charles W. Duncan Junior - Welch Chair of Chemistry and he is a Professor of Materials Science. He is founding Director of the Rice University - Energy and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). He is also a senior member of the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology - a world-leading Nanoscale research Institute, founded by a Nobel Prize-winner working in the field.

Professor Barron is already working at Swansea part of the time and will increase his involvement gradually over the next year or so as he rounds out his research interests at Rice. These interests run across all three of our ‘grand challenge’ areas, but he will  particularly lead Swansea University’s Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI).

Along with these research chairs, come three National Research Networks. We have established one in each of the ‘grand challenge’ areas identified in Science for Wales. Welsh Government staff, working with the research-intensive universities across Wales have agreed the form and coverage of these Networks. Arrangements are in hand for a formal launch for these  - at Bangor University, in the middle of March.

Taken together, the research chairs with their wider teams and the more coordinated and focused activity we look to from our new National Research Networks should promote the effectiveness of research in these grand challenge areas; enable researchers to make more successful applications for competitive research funding and in time produce new knowledge which can be commercialised, for Wales’ wider benefit.
Our Annual Report on Science for Wales will report on progress on the strategy as a whole. I expect it to be published in April, after the end of the financial year.