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GW4 calls for government investment to strengthen advanced engineering and digital innovation industries in region

Press release issued: 3 November 2016

A consortium of major businesses, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and higher education institutions has found that the South West England and South East Wales region can lead the UK and compete with the world in the areas of advanced engineering and digital innovation, and has called for targeted government investment to drive innovation in these areas.

Following a call for expressions of interest, the UK government invited GW4 Alliance, University of the West of England and Plymouth University together with key organisations (including Airbus, IQE plc, the Met Office, Rolls Royce and Johnson Matthey), and LEPs in the region, to collate the South West England and South East Wales Science and Innovation Audit (SWW-SIA).

The audit identified that the region is home to the largest aerospace sector in the UK and pioneering automotive, nuclear and marine renewables industries.

South West England and South East Wales is also synonymous with digital innovation: home to the largest silicon design cluster outside of the USA; more climate expertise than any other area worldwide; global powerhouse for the microelectronics industry; a national exemplar for smart cities.

A key recommendation from the audit is to call on the UK government to make a series of strategic investments to better integrate the scientific and industrial strengths of the region. In the immediate-term, the report underlines the success of investment in Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult, and recommended fully funding the proposed Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS), and Composites Excellence – with National Composites Materials Centre.

Commenting on SWW-SIA, Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath and Chair of the GW4 Council, said: "The audit provided unparalleled evidence of our region’s research strengths and industrial capacity in advanced engineering and digital innovation. Now urgent action is required to optimise delivery of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. We are confident that our region can deliver a resurgence in manufacturing, building on the opportunities afforded by digital innovation and the strength of the science base."

The University of Bristol, which is part of the G4 Alliance, has welcomed today’s news.

Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research & Enterprise) Nishan Canagarajah, said: "The audit has for the first time brought together the evidence that the regions academic research and our innovative businesses are world leading in digital innovation and advanced manufacturing. 

"The University looks forward to continuing to work with our partners and building on these findings."

The SIA process has provided real impetus for cohesive working across the region, which offers great benefits to be realised by systematic and sustained investment by Government in partnership with the private sector.

GW4 Director Dr Sarah Perkins said: "GW4 Alliance has a strong track record in working with civic, academic and industry partners to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. This collaborative ethos will prove vital to the region attracting the research and industry leaders of the future, and ensuring sustained job creation and economic growth."

The UK government has thanked the SWW-SIA consortium for their submission and is expected to make an announcement about its Industrial Strategy in the upcoming Autumn Statement. 

Professor Nick Talbot, Chair of the Board for the GW4 Alliance, Chair of SWW-SIA steering group and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact at the University of Exeter, said: "We are proud of our regional expertise and ability to compete on a global stage in a variety of future-facing industries, from climate change to smart cities. Now is the time to capitalise on our collective strengths in South West England and South East Wales to build a research, industry and innovation ecosystem that will benefit our communities and economy for generations."

Established in 2013, the GW4 Alliance brings together four leading research-intensive universities: Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter. It aims to strengthen the economy across the region through undertaking pioneering research with industry partners. 

Further information

The GW4 Alliance combines the intellectual capacity and physical resources of the four leading research-intensive universities in the South West of England and Wales: Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter. It builds leading cross-institutional research communities whose cumulative impact is enhanced through collaboration and develops strategic partnerships with industry, governments, the arts and civil society. All four universities are in the top 1 per cent of institutions in the world and have a combined turnover well in excess of £1 billion. For more information about GW4 see

The South West England and South East Wales Science and Innovation Audit (SWW–SIA) has been undertaken by a consortium that brings together key organisations and businesses from South West England (Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, Gloucestershire, Heart of the South West, Swindon and Wiltshire, and West of England LEPs) and South East Wales. The SWW region has a population of 6.2m people and has 14 research institutions, 15 Higher Education Institutions, 27 Further Education Colleges, and over 35 science parks and innovation centres.

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