Skip to main content

Strengthening International Research Capacity in Wales

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SIRCIW (Strengthening International Research Capacity in Wales)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2021-02-28

Scientists in Wales are efficient, productive, collaborative, impactful and in many cases world leading. Recent evidence shows scientific excellence but a lack of critical mass in areas most likely to drive a knowledge economy through innovation and translation. Our application to the COFUND fellowship scheme formed the foundation of the 'Sêr Cymru (Stars Wales) II Programme' and was designed to produce a step change in Welsh scientific capacity, building on excellence and investing in early career researchers. The integrated proposal married Marie Skłodowska-Curie COFUND fellowships with European Structural Funds, university, industrial and Welsh Government funding, with the aim of bringing into Wales up to 140 new fellowships in strategic areas including clinical science, engineering, physics, mathematics and applied Social Sciences.

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) programme, 'Strengthening International Research Capacity in Wales' (SIRCIW) intention was to support recruitment of experienced researchers of all nationalities into Wales. Fellows recruited so far have been given employment contracts at their host university, and where possible and relevant, they will be offered the opportunity to spend time out in different sectors. The fellowships have offered an opportunity to help them develop into the research leaders of the future through provision of research funding, mentorship and supervision from within their host institution and training and networking, either directly in their place of work or through the SIRCIW programme itself.

Applications we have received to the scheme have all been driven by fellows themselves. Selection to the programme has been done using tested, merit-based methods and funding decisions have been made independent of nationality, discipline, age, career breaks etc. The Independent Evaluation Panel that has made these recommendations for us was appointed through open competition and is made up of national & international experts with a broad base of scientific knowledge and experience of funding/training panels.
SIRCIW started as soon as was practical after the conclusion of the Grant Preparation process with the European Commission. There have been five calls for fellowships in parallel with the European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) scheme for fellows, recapturing talent, rising star and research chair applications. For SIRCIW, 75 of the planned 90 fellowships have been taken up across the four most research active universities in Wales: Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea, with fellows coming from prestigious institutions around the world, such as Harvard and MIT in the US; the University of Queensland, Australia; University of Beijing, China; and Universities of Bern, Montpellier and Padova in Europe. We have also supported 8 Research Chair applications, 10 Rising Star fellowships, 3 Recapturing Talent fellowships and 30 ERDF fellowships, all of which are relevant to one or more of our smart specialisation areas of Life Sciences and Health, Low Carbon Energy and the Environment, Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing, and ICT and the Digital Economy. We have held multiple welcome events for the researchers that are in post so far, including a Ser Cymru celebration where fellows were invited to enter a video or poster competition to showcase their research.
This funding has given us a unique opportunity to bring together our universities to address the issue of research capacity in STEMM subjects in Wales. We are also using the novel approach of combing Horizon 2020 funding and Structural funds in parallel to allow us to attract stellar researchers at different levels of their research careers into Wales. We reached 83 % of our target number of new researchers in post and of those that are moving onto new positions, approximately 50% have secured permanent positions. We are now moving into the final phase of the programme when we will aim to provide opportunities for our fellows to continue to network, meet with industry representatives where relevant and help them in any others ways we can to become the research leaders of the future. It is still a little too soon to report on the research income and other impacts the fellows will have achieved by the end of the programme but we expect to be able to report on examples of innovation relevant to health, the environment, engineering and the digital economy as well as other areas in the final report.
Locations of researchers when applying to Ser Cymru
Infographic to celebrate Ser Cymru
Infographic to summarise Ser Cymru investments