Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

SIRCIW Report Summary

Project ID: 663830
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.4.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SIRCIW (Strengthening International Research Capacity in Wales)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

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. We are also just about to launch the main programme of bespoke and innovative training (through organisations such as the Leadership Foundation and Vox Coaching), that will help them develop into the research leaders of the future.

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.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

SIRCIW started as soon as was practical after the conclusion of the Grant Preparation process with the European Commission. There have been three 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, 62 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 7 Research Chair applications, 7 Rising Star fellowships, 4 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 two welcome events for the researchers that are in post so far, including a Festival of Science where fellows were invited to enter a post competition to showcase their research. More activities of this type are planned and we will report on these later.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

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 have almost reached our target number of new researchers in post and will continue to try to recruit exceptional candidates as far as we can. We are now moving into the next phase of the programme when we will aim to provide bespoke training for our fellows to help them to become the research leaders of the future. As well as recruiting more researchers to Wales, we would like to see an increased level of grant income being won and more collaboration with commercial organisations being set up as a result of our investments and we will monitor this throughout the lifetime of this award. As it is very early days for a lot of our fellows who are only just taking up their awards, it is too soon to report on the impacts they will achieve 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

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