£36m EU-backed Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships 2 (KESS 2) operation for Wales launched

A £36m EU-backed project  offering Research Masters and PhD opportunities in collaboration with local companies through the eight Universities in Wales was formally launched by Welsh Government Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford AM at Bangor University on July 26th.

KESS 2 is a major pan-Wales initiative  supported by £26m of EU funds through the Welsh Government which links companies and organisations with academic expertise in the Higher Education sector in Wales to undertake collaborative research projects. 

KESS 2 aims to build on the success of its predecessor, KESS.  The latest initiative will  provide more than 600 scholarships over the course of six years. In addition, over 500 enterprises will collaborate in Research and Innovation activities across the eight Welsh Universities.

Mark Drakeford  said: “KESS II has an important role to play in driving prosperity across Wales by providing opportunities for post-graduate students and academics to enhance their research skills in key growth sectors, and also by supporting the commercialisation of that research among businesses.

“Over £26m of EU funds is supporting this major project in the coming years, which once again underlines the critical importance of this funding in supporting economic development in Wales.”

KESS 2 aims to increase the number of people with higher level skills engaged with enterprises undertaking research and innovation activities, with a view to promoting and increasing Research and Innovation activity within businesses, including micro companies. The operation will deliver a range of collaborative Research Masters and Doctoral level opportunities within Universities and companies in the West Wales and the Valleys area. 

KESS 2 will contribute to the Welsh Government’s aim to embed research and innovation in enterprises in the West Wales and the Valleys area by delivering demand led activities that align the development of higher level skills with business benefits.

KESS 2 is led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales.

Prof. John Hughes (Vice Chancellor : Bangor University) said : 

I’m delighted that Bangor has the honour of leading the KESS programmes, both 1 and 2 on behalf of all of the universities in Wales.  The Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship or KESS 2 scheme is intended to partner over 500 businesses with academics and postgraduate research students, to develop innovative research programmes for thriving business growth.  IWorth £36m of which £26m has been provided by through  EU funds.  This funding will allow over 600 postgraduate students to benefit from opportunities to develop themselves as research professionals as part of Research Masters and PhD programmes which are funded through the scheme. 

It’s a substantial EU investment that will help align research with the needs of small businesses and drive high level skills in Wales in the coming years. 

Prof. Jo Rycroft-Malone (Pro-Vice Chancellor Research and Impact : Bangor University) added :

“Whilst we have some uncertainty perhaps about what lies ahead of us, we do have some certainty in the fact that the future in Wales lies in our investment and development of the next generation and in ensuring that we grow a competitive edge.   Providing resources to combine research, knowledge exchange and higher level skills development is going to be critical to the chances of us delivering a positive future and this goes really to the heart of the KESS programme in that it is a significant investment and opportunity to contribute to the development of Wales’ knowledge economy and future prosperity, whilst having a very real impact on the individual lives of those participating as students. 

“In KESS we have a very highly successful collaboration that’s put Wales on the map and we’re building on the talent and knowhow in our Universities, businesses, and other organisations to take forward innovative and inspiring ideas.”  

Click here to view the KESS 2 launch image gallery.

Publication date: 12 August 2016