20 Oct 2016 £13.5million Swansea University project will unlock innovation across Wales
A £13.5million EU-supported scheme which brings together academics, clinicians and industry to pioneer research into cutting-edge technologies has been announced by Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford.
Led by Swansea University through the ARCH partnership, AgorIP will work with the NHS and industrial collaborators across North and West Wales and the South Wales Valleys to turn innovative research into new products, processes and services.
The project is backed by £6.7million from the Welsh Government, including support from the European Regional Development Fund and funding from Swansea University.
Speaking to more than 160 delegates at an event held at Cardiff’s SWALEC Stadium to mark the progress and achievements of EU funds in Wales, Professor Drakeford said: “This project will support the transformation of research with the potential for commercialisation in universities and health boards.
“This is another positive example of how EU funds are helping drive forward new concepts and research to grow our knowledge economy, putting Wales on a global platform.
“The UK Government‘s extended guarantee – which the First Minister called for – to fund all schemes approved before the UK leaves the EU will provide continuity for Welsh communities, businesses and investors while arrangements are made for the longer term.”
As part of the AgorIP project, commercial sector experts will help progress new ideas through experimental and industrial development, demonstrating proof of concept to potential funders and attracting further research investment. AgorIP was piloted through the Welsh Government’s Academia for Business project, which was supported by the EU funding programme 2007-13. AgorIP secured £4million of private sector funding to create six spin-outs within a year. This project will build on this first phase, opening up a pipeline of untapped research and turning innovative ideas into products and services for the commercial market.
ARCH (A Regional Collaboration for Health) is a unique partnership between Swansea University and ABMU and Hywel Dda university health boards. ARCH covers six local authority areas and benefits 1 million people across South West Wales.
The ARCH partnership brings together health and science to transform the way health is delivered in the region. Unlocking and supporting innovation is one of the ARCH aims.
Professor Marc Clement, ARCH board member Swansea University’s Dean of the School of Management, said: “Swansea University is delighted to be leading this important project, which links academics and business experts to come up with innovative ideas and ways of doing things. I’m confident that the results will be of major benefit to the Welsh economy.
“As a university we pride ourselves on our links with industry and this is another example of how sectors can work together. I’m pleased the Welsh Government is providing this financial backing via EU funding.”
Swansea University’s Dr Gareth Davies, who has been involved in developing the project alongside Swansea University’s Director of Commercialisation Gerry Ronan, added: “The aim of the project is to unlock innovation in the NHS and to provide a support service to drive this innovation and realise the huge value from Intellectual Property (IP) generated across ARCH region and indeed Wales. We will provide a support framework to bring ideas to market and support our health boards in realising their commercial value.
“AgorIP will open a pipeline of untapped valuable opportunities to work with researchers and NHS staff to disclose concepts with development potential. An example of how this works in practice is our work with ABMU’s Rehabilitation Engineering Unit at Morriston Hospital. Dr Lorna Tasker and her team are developing an app to improve patient care and reduce the huge challenges caused by pressure ulcers. The app, which is being supported by global tech firm Fujitsu and Welsh Government, will provide accessible expert advice to prevent ulcers getting worse and to promote healing without surgery, allow clinicians to remotely support patients.”
ABMU’s Dr Lorna Tasker, from the Rehabilitation Engineering Unit, added: “We are currently working with Welsh Government and Fujitsu to develop the app.
“The implications are significant in terms of patient benefit. We look forward to receiving the support through the Agor-IP to assist with further developing this app so that it can reach the wider patient population.”
Since 2007, EU structural funds have helped nearly 73,000 people into work; helped people achieve more than 234,000 qualifications; supported the creation of nearly 12,000 businesses and created some 37,000 jobs.
Professor Drakeford added: “For more than a decade, EU finding has helped to shape Wales’ economic fortunes and laid the foundations for more sustainable economic prosperity, including marked increases in employment and skills levels; investments in research and innovation.”