Following the collapse of its traditional industry and manufacturing sectors, Wales has faced substantial economic deprivation and has sought to restructure its economy over the last three decades. Focusing on the role of universities in a post-industrial region Professor Gareth Davies and his team at the School of Management’s iLab research centre has been examining this complex issue.
With the aim of informing both policy and practice, the research has been both theoretical and applied. Theoretical investigation explored the potential of university patenting and also looked at the nature of innovation ecosystems. The research team then developed new theory in relation to sub-regional innovation ecosystems. This work influenced policy makers to invest in initiatives to support the development of innovation across South West Wales which, in turn, provided the research team with opportunity for further, applied research.
The research has provided novel frameworks that have since proven effective in overcoming the barriers to commercialisation faced in marginal economies.
The research has encouraged the Welsh Government to invest in developing an Open Access Open Innovation (OAOI) approach. This approach facilitates a more open exchange of ideas between industry and universities so that, ultimately, commercial opportunities can be maximised. The resulting flagship initiative is AgorIP.
Established in 2016, AgorIP has received over £13m from the Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund (matched by Swansea University) and is funded until at least 2023. AgorIP is helping individuals and organisations realise the potential of their ideas, products and research. It has forged particularly strong links with medical practitioners, resulting in service innovations such as an app to help prevent eating disorders and a simple blood test that could make it easier for GPs to diagnose bowel cancer. The OAOI approach developed by the research team has also been cited by organisations such as Pfizer and HPC Wales as crucial in forming collaborations and attracting additional investment.
Evidence of the extended policy impact is the £1.2bn UK Government investment in the Swansea Bay City Region City Deal. Our research into OAOI is cited as an important contributor to this initiative.