£21m boost to attract science talent in Sêr Cymru scheme

Research underway at Cardiff University's £30m Hadyn Ellis medical research centre The networks are looking at projects that stretch from space research to the cancer drugs, from sustainbility to climate change

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Three science research networks will share £21m as the first phase of a plan to attract world-class scientific talent to Wales is completed.

It follows the launch on Thursday of a low carbon, energy and environment science network that will be based at Bangor and Aberystwyth universities.

They join projects on life sciences in Cardiff and advanced engineering in Swansea.

The Welsh government is investing £50m in total in the Sêr Cymru scheme.


Eroded field

Prof David Thomas is the newly-appointed head of the Low Carbon, Energy and Environment Network.

Its work at Bangor and Aberystwyth universities will examine issues of sustainability - from the food we put on our plates, to how we cope with global warming.

"You can see in the field in this photograph that areas which were historically wooded have been cleared over time to create land for farming," explained the professor of marine science in Bangor.

"As a result the soil isn't able to absorb the same amount of water, resulting in erosion, and fertilisers such as nitrogen and phosphorous being washed into the water system.

"As part of our work we may fund research into how using different crops and/or farming practices will make the use of our landscape more sustainable for the whole community

"The individual expertise to achieve this already exists across Welsh universities, but this funding will allow us to join together researchers who have not traditionally worked together to form new, ambitious long-term programmes of research ."

Announced in March 2012, the project hopes to encourage leading professors to move to Wales to work and boost research and the economy.

The first of the networks to get up and running was in September with the life sciences and health network based at Cardiff University.

It is focusing on the fight against cancer, infectious diseases, and brain conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.

The second network at Swansea University is developing research that relies on hi-tech engineering, manufacturing and computer modelling - and already includes collaborations with the European Space Agency.

Innovation 'key'

The final piece of the jigsaw is the work that will be carried out by both Bangor and Aberystwyth scientists.

Their research efforts will look at how we use our land, water, food and energy resources - and the challenges posed by climate change.

"Science and innovation are key pillars of a thriving economy," stressed science minister Edwina Hart, who was launching the latest science network in Bangor.

"Boosting our science research capability is vital to improving our economic wellbeing and securing a more prosperous future for Wales."

Wales' chief scientific officer, Prof Julie Williams, added: "We already have excellent, high quality research taking place here in Wales but we need more of it.

"These networks will help us achieve that in areas that have the potential to create long-term, lasting economic and social benefits for Wales and beyond."

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