Glyndwr University and the North Wales economy

We are often told by politicians that Wales should become a small clever country that punches above its weight in an increasingly competitive global environment.

To achieve this, there must be investment in knowledge-based industries, which means not only attracting the best companies here to Wales but developing our own home grown businesses in key areas such as biotechnology, computing and clean technologies.

As the previous blog entry showed, that strategy took a massive blow last week with the news that Deepstream Technologies had been forced to go into administration, not only putting eighty well-paid jobs at risk but also risking the future viability of creating a strong high technology economy within North Wales.

Despite this, there are signs that one organisation in North Wales is determined to continue to build the foundations for a knowledge-based economy within the region.

Glyndwr University has recently announced plans for the creation of a knowledge industry corridor, linking the Wrexham campus with the OPTIC high technology incubator at St Asaph. This will create an environment to create wealth in key knowledge sectors within the economy and may provide a real focus for Assembly support in supporting the development of the region over the next decade.

Glyndwr University is to be congratulated in showing real leadership by taking such an initiative forward during this depressed economic times. Despite being a relatively new university, it remains committed to investing in the development of its research capacity and has recently advertised for two professors in the areas of lean manufacturing and composites materials, both of which will be directly applicable to the critically important business sector in North East Wales which remains the economic powerhouse of the region.

Despite this considerable financial commitment, it is not appreciated by everyone in Wales and many believe that there remains an inate sense of academic superiority which looks down on smaller universities and their role in developing the research capacity of this nation. This is compounded by the belief that if you haven’t been in existence for over a hundred years, then you cannot make any worthwhile contribution to higher education.

This is in stark contrast to the attitudes of academic policymakers within some of the economic powerhouses of the world.

For example, I recently visited Hong Kong and met with the senior staff of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). Since its official opening in October 1991, this institution has established itself as an intellectual powerhouse and is now one of the top forty universities in the world. Compare this to the best placed Welsh university, namely Cardiff at 133rd.

Within eighteen years, HKUST has gone from being an idea on the drawing board to one of the best institutions globally. Its achievement demonstrates unequivocally that, with the right funding and political support, you can create and develop academic excellence from very humble beginnings.

It is certainly an example to institutions such as Glyndwr University which, through investing in new professors and developing important initiatives such as the Knowledge Industry Corridor, is showing that it has the ambition to be equally as successful in the future.

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