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Leaked report questions Government’s POWIS decision

November 2, 2011 5:51 PM
Originally published by Peter Black and South Wales West Liberal Democrats

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have uncovered a shocking report that questions the Welsh Government's decision to withdraw funding for the Prince of Wales Innovation Scholarship scheme.

An independent report, written by Price Waterhouse Cooper and commissioned by the audit committee of the University of Wales, sets out a point-by-point rebuttal of the Welsh Government's decision to stop funding the project.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are this afternoon using their debate to urge the Welsh Government to learn from previous mistakes regarding their allocation of EU funding. In this debate, Peter Black AM will cite the independent report as yet more evidence that the Welsh Government have not acted in the best interest for the Welsh economy.

POWIS (Prince of Wales Innovation Scheme) was a business-led scheme that paid for research graduates to study for their PhD whilst also contributing to the research and development work at a company. Its benefits included more top-level PhDs in Wales, as well as lower research and development costs which greatly helped develop home grown businesses. The Welsh Government recently withdrew funding for the scheme.

Peter Black AM commented:

"The Welsh Government's decision to withdraw funding from POWIS had a number of consequences, one of which was to send a signal to academics and investors outside Wales that they were are not interested in commercially based research and that the Welsh Government does not understand the needs of business.

"It is made clear in the report that POWIS was a success. It points out that progress to date includes 54 identified collaborative Research and Development projects and a total investment of £9.2 million, of which £408,000 has come from Welsh European Funding Office. That is much better value for money than most European investments. With this in mind, the Welsh Government's decision to withdraw funding verges on the incredulous.

"The report states that there is no evidence that a Welsh Government representative raised a single concern in respect of issues being 'deal breakers' despite the fact that both they and WEFO had representatives on the panel that ran the scholarships. The authors seem as surprised as the rest of us when the Government raised issues about the validity of the project and they abruptly withdrew funding. As the report asks, why didn't the Government address these so-called problems at the time they arose, rather than simply withdrawing money and then explaining the difficulties?

"In the light of this, it seems to me that the decision by the Government to withdraw funding is both perverse and against the interests of Wales and its economy. I urge the Minister to think again".

Eluned Parrott, Shadow Minister for Europe said:

"Latest official figures from the EU show that West Wales and the Valleys have become relatively poorer despite receiving £6 billion in funding. Out of the 66 European regions that have received EU regeneration money, West Wales and the Valleys is one of the only eight regions who have actually become relatively poorer.

"It is clear that the Welsh Government has misspent the billions of pounds of funding they have received from the EU. Nonetheless, there are some schemes that were a success and produced potential for growth. POWIS is a clear example of that, as this report shows.

"We are calling on the Welsh Government to establish a successor scheme to POWIS with similar aims and objectives. If the Government wants to get our economy moving, it needs to be making use of the important work that is going on in our universities. Only by linking our knowledge with industry effectively can we hope to grow a sustainable Welsh economy and deliver high-quality jobs."