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Press Release - 28 July 2005

Strengthening the South West - £14 million research collaboration announced

South West Universities, with the South West of England Regional Development Agency and HEFCE, have formed a ground-breaking £14 million partnership to boost research in areas of vital economic importance to the region.

A total of 145 new researchers are to be appointed in areas ranging from nanotechnology and economic psychology to sustainable development and advanced engineering.

Called Great Western Research, the project is led by and will be run through Exeter University on behalf of its lead partners, Bristol and Bath universities, and the other ten South West higher education institutions. It is the first step in a much wider plan to create a regional research alliance. Funding for the project comes from the South West of England Regional Development Agency (South West RDA), the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), businesses and the universities themselves.

Professor Steve Smith, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, said today: 'This is great news for the South West. It will enable universities to collaborate on research which is both of international quality and important for the future prosperity of the region. Universities have, of course, often worked together in the past, but this project signals a step change in the degree of collaboration. We believe we can do a much better job for the region if we pool our strengths and develop joint projects. This is turn will enable the region's businesses to be a step ahead of the competition.'

Stephen Peacock, Director of Enterprise and Innovation for the South West RDA commented: 'The South West RDA is pleased to support the region's businesses to participate in this innovative project. Collaborative R&D between Higher Education Institutions and businesses is traditionally low in the South West compared with other regions. The increase in research relevant to industry in the South West’s priority sectors and the greater number of well trained postgraduate researchers employed in the region will stimulate innovation in the businesses involved.'

Professor Eric Thomas, Vice Chancellor of the University of Bristol said: ‘This radical strengthening of regional alliances will broaden and deepen the academic experience for staff and students across a range of key disciplines.’

Professor Glynis Breakwell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath, said: ‘The research undertaken by the South West's universities plays a critical role in strengthening the regional economy. We need to bolster our existing areas of economic strength and develop new areas. GWR will help to do this by providing a platform for concentrated research collaboration, generating the advanced level knowledge and individual expertise required for the South West to be internationally competitive. This development represents real progress for both universities and businesses in the South West.’

The five collaborative research areas are:

The 145 researchers comprise 15 postdoctoral Research Fellows and 130 Postgraduate Research Studentships, which will be awarded to meet industry needs. A South West Postgraduate Training Network will be established. This will provide collaborative high-level training and new training space for future research professionals who will be needed in knowledge intensive industries such as industry research and development.

The universities and businesses will provide around £3 million of funding each for the five-year project, with HEFCE and the South West RDA contributing approximately £4 million each. The project will begin in October with the appointment of a project director. It will run through until 2010.

The University of Bath is one of the UK's leading universities, with an international reputation for quality research and teaching. View a full list of the University's press releases: