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Thursday, October 20, 2011

More on the University of Wales - POWIS

These are the questions posed to the Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science regarding the Prince of Wales Innovation Scheme. This scheme is run by the University of Wales and utilises European money to pump prime research by first class students that can grow business and generate wealth. The European money was stopped by the Minister last week for technical reasons.

Simon Thomas: An entrepreneurial culture comes with its elements of risk and failure. Would the Minister like to say more about the decision of the Welsh European Funding Office to withdraw funding from the Prince of Wales Innovation Scholarships? Some people are puzzled about this, because the scholarships have only been going for two years, and yet have seemed to have achieved their initial outcomes, at least. Will the Minister publish a full evaluation of the reasoning by WEFO for the withdrawal of this funding? Also, in particular, what support can the Minister give to such programmes that work with universities, research and development institutions and spin-off companies to ensure that our universities have an entrepreneurial spirit and culture?

Edwina Hart: I advise Members that the Welsh Government review, which was completed in the spring, identified significant management and governance shortcomings in relation to EU fund eligibility. The key issue for us is that there will be no funds lost to Wales as a result of any decisions, because any EU funds committed will go elsewhere in the system. I am aware of the comments being made about how we need to encourage entrepreneurs. I have already started some discussions within my sectors about what we can do in the future as a Government.

My later question was a supplementary on a question regarding Swansea East so had to have that as a focus:

Peter Black: The Prince of Wales Innovation Scholarships scheme has benefited a number of Swansea students, linked to the research carried out at Swansea University. The decision to withdraw WEFO funding has put their future in doubt, and certainly the future of linking innovation with entrepreneurship and the development of high-quality jobs in the Swansea area. I understand the answer you gave to Simon Thomas, but can you tell me why have you withdrawn this WEFO funding when you do not have a plan B, and how quickly will you be able to put in place an alternative scheme, so that we can continue to encourage the link between research and entrepreneurship, which is absolutely vital if we are to grow our economy in the Swansea area?

Edwina Hart: I totally concur with your last points about encouraging entrepreneurs and development, but the review, which was completed in the spring, identified significant management and governance shortcomings in relation to EU funds, and I have a duty to ensure that public funds are maximised for the benefit of Wales. Part of what WEFO does is to regularly monitor EU projects to help ensure that they are meeting their terms and conditions for EU funding, and to ensure that any shortcomings are thoroughly reviewed and action taken, as in the case of POWIS.

Unfortunately the Minister has missed or avoided the points in both questions. Why has one of the few initiatives actually delivering real impact been abandoned, and what will she do to address the gap left? Little impact in jobs and education has appeared from over a decade of Labour-led rule and distractions and scapegoats (normally UW) are getting rather tiresome... Quite where is the impact of the £££ poured into the big 5 institutions and WAG initiatives?
Edwina keeps going on like a broken record. Please tell the world what are these managment shortcomings?? or how does a mismanaged programme bring £12.5m investment?? Clearly she has no clue and needs to speak to the POWIS companies before making these statements. I have two POWIS scholars and they are fantastic. The Glbal Academy team have been brilliant and are a breath of fresh air, unlike WG, who have no idea how to deal with businesses.
Anon> this past 3rd October the University of Wales own management team decided to 'stop validating other degrees'; this was the decision of the University of Wales itself. I'm not going to defend Edwina Hart, but the decision was not made by her, but by the management team at the University of Wales. I wrote that day that his announcement meant the end of the University of Wales. I can't understand why the University of Wales took this step, the equivalent of an own goal, but it did. Cw

and on Q: "University of Wales will cease to exist as chairman Hugh Thomas resigns" ... pretty much an inevitable outcome given the UoW's crazy own goal made on Oct 3, 2011 discussed above ... cw

Huh anonymous... think you've missed the point. The decision on POWIS was made by the Minister for Business Enterprise to remove EU funding from a successful innovation programme.

The decision to stop validation of degrees outside of Wales was as a result of a change in academic strategy by the University as a result of a hate campaign led by journalists at the BBC and driven by university politics.
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