An innovative project has brought together universities, further education colleges and industries across South Wales to share and develop ideas,and examine the ways in which they can work better together.
The £1.2m HEFCW funded Partnership for Innovation in Education (PIE) programme, has facilitated more than 60 workshops and masterclasses, and more than 100 staff and industry placements over the last year.
The placements have been aimed at developing new cross-sector relationships, encouraging the development of strategically beneficial joint projects, and supporting graduate employability and curriculum development.
They have also led to the creation of new research projects and collaborative opportunities.
Universities in south east Wales led on different themes:
The OU’s cross cutting theme of digital and part-time study involved several successful collaborations with education providers and industries in Wales. One example of this was a series of placements and workshops run by the OU in Wales which introduced project partners to the University’s virtual online OpenSTEM Labs.
Gareth Harvey, Project Coordinator for the OU in Wales, said: “We worked with industry and educational partners including the Further Education colleges to demonstrate how our remote, virtual labs could be used to innovatively teach core aspects of STEM subjects. Together, we then explored distance learning upskilling and reskilling opportunities including for the regional compound semiconductor industry, working with companies such as See Science and Microsemi.”
During another of the projects, USW games and graphic design lecturers teamed up with Innovate Trust, a Cardiff-based charity that supports people with learning disabilities, mental health issues and physical impairments.
They held several workshops to better understand the challenges faced by the charity, and visited the Trust’s SMART house to see how Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPA) can promote independence and well-being for the people the charity support.
The collaboration has enabled the charity to evaluate their existing processes, consider new ideas and learn about the cutting edge technologies usually confined to creative and gaming technologies.
The charity also learnt about other creative disciplines, such as storytelling and illustration, and how these can be applied in healthcare settings.
Richard Hurford, Course Leader for MA Games Enterprise, said: “It has been really interesting to work with Innovate Trust and help them to explore how they can construct something that is really valuable and will directly help people to continue to live independently. The project has opened up a new collaboration between us and we are looking forward to exploring further research opportunities and student projects to see how we can assist the charity with further developing their important work.”
Ashley Bale from the Innovate Trust, said: “The placement has allowed us to establish potential future opportunities. We would hope to continue to work in partnership to support both research at the University as well as potential expansion of the project to benefit more people with disabilities.”
Dr Francis Cowe, the project lead and Director of Strategic Alliance and Partnerships at USW, said: “The chosen areas of activity link to both the Welsh Government and Regional Skills Partnerships identified priorities for current workforce upskilling, research and innovation needs to support inward investment. We are proud to have worked with the support of the four universities and five colleges to enhance the research, skills and knowledge exchange infrastructure. Universities and colleges are committed to working in collaboration with industry to further develop opportunities within the region in these three critical sectors.”
Dr Alyson Thomas, Director of Policy and Funding at HEFCW, said: “It is great to see the scale of this place based programme and the opportunities that have opened up for the universities, colleges and partners involved in these economically and socially important areas across south east Wales. Higher education institutions, working in partnership with employers and further education colleges, have been crucial in promoting a shared understanding of curriculum needs and encouraging graduate employability.
“The programme looks to match industry and learner demands in the areas of creative industries, design, and compound semi-conductors, as well as tackling the digital skills of part-time learners, and we look forward to seeing partners continuing to build on their achievements so far. Notably, this project highlights how universities are working to meet and support civic mission ambitions for local skills needs, and those of industry, in the region, promoting social and economic prosperity.”
Representatives from universities, colleges as well as businesses and organisations that have taken part in the project gathered to share their experiences today (Wednesday 11 March), as well as to look at the next steps for future collaborations.
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