Author User:Gdr Licence CC BY-SA 3.0 Source Wikimedia Commons
The Welsh Government published a new innovation strategy yesterday with the objectives of creating better jobs, improved health and care services, a greener environment and a more prosperous nation. Those are to be achieved through innovation which is defined as "the creation and application of new knowledge to improve the world." The strategy is to be implemented by an action plan which will be published later.
Education is central to the strategy because "schools, colleges, universities and research organisations create knowledge through research" which can "lead to commercialisation, create societal value, and support a stronger economy." The new Curriculum for Wales should prepare learners for work in knowledge-based careers and the opportunities and challenges of an ever-changing economy. A new Commission for Tertiary Education and Research (CTEE) should create a more strategic, collaborative, and joined-up education and research sector for universities and colleges.
The mission is "an economy that innovates for growth, collaborates across sectors for solutions to society’s challenges, adopts new technologies for efficiency and productivity, uses resources proportionately, and allows citizens to share wealth through fair work." The Welsh Government acknowledges that the Welsh economy is integrated into that of the UK and that its innovation strategy must be compatible with the UK one. However, there is still scope for Welsh initiatives in R&D funding, public sector procurement, small business research, digital and healthcare innovation and Global Wales which will be pursued. A particularly exciting development is a partnership with T-Hub in Hyderabad which is the world's biggest innovation campus.
Health and Wellbeing
The mission for this sector is a "coherent innovation ecosystem where the health and social care sector collaborates with industry, academia and the third sector to deliver greater value and impact for citizens, the economy, and the environment." The pandemic occasioned clinicians to develop new ways of delivering health and social care which were discussed in The NHS Wales COVID-19 Innovation and Transformation Study Report, The strategy proposes greater alignment of the health and social care innovation ecosystems, coordinating health and social care with the wider economy and community. Social Care Wales is developing a social care research, innovation and improvement which is set out in A healthier Wales: long term plan for health and social care. Health and social care priorities will dovetail with the initiatives in the economy, education climate and nature.
Climate and Nature
This mission covers meeting Wales's climate change objectives. Proposals include reducing reliance on fossil fuels, making greater use of renewals, developing new power storage technologies and substituting hydrogen for hydrocarbons. Existing plans for future gas and electricity networks will be implemented. The adoption of new technologies for heating buildings will be encouraged, particularly retrofitting for older structures. Shared vehicle use will be promoted in order to reduce the need for individual vehicle ownership. Other initiatives include greater use of recycling of household waste such as using dirty nappies as a road construction material and developing the Welsh timber industry.
In contrast to the UK Innovation Strategy which I reviewed in NIPC Invention on 12 Aug 2021, the Welsh Innovation Strategy is ambitious but doable. The UK strategy had the aim of transforming the UK into a science and tech superpower by 2030 - pure boosterism of the kind promoted by the last Prime Minister but one. As I said in my review:
"the idea that British companies will be competing with the likes of Huawei, Mitsubishi and Samsung in such fields as artificial intelligence, mobile telecoms, consumer electronics or any other new technology is as fanciful as the garden bridge, an airport in the Thames estuary and a bridge to Northern Ireland."
If I have any criticism of the Welsh strategy it is that it bothers to mention the UK Innovation Strategy. There are lots of good ideas in the Welsh strategy such as the coordination of the education, economy, healthcare and climate and nature missions and the use of universities and other educational institutions as centres of research.
Anyone wishing to discuss this article may call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.