Forget the Coalition’s rhetoric – Wales is a Labour success story with innovation and long-term thinking at its heart.
The Welsh Government headed by Carwyn Jones AM shows the rest of our Labour family how to run a successful government in times of austerity and spiteful cuts from Whitehall. Labour must not forget that it is the Party of the Innovators and Innovation.
As Wales is the only devolved administration in which Labour is in power, the mantle of showing what a Labour government would do in power falls on it. The Welsh Government has been tackling some of the most difficult problems in the UK, from long-term structural issues due to the collapse of the mining and industrial sectors under the Thatcher Government to maximising resources under an austerity-mad Coalition Government in Westminster.
I want to focus on one area in which the Welsh Labour Government has been creating new opportunities for Wales and that is in the area of Research and Development or R&D for short.
The Innovation Strategy white paper from Innovation Wales – gives a blueprint of a Party and Government that understands and commits to long-term investment and thinking required for blue-sky thinking to flourish. Such openness and strategic partnership from Government is the key ingredient to attract researchers and research dollars to Wales.
During a time when Westminster seems to be closing the door on Europe, Wales announced it was open for business and has capitalised on EU funding to cushion Westminster’s cuts but also to allow Wales to punch well above its weight. Welsh Universities are amongst the best in the world, with Cardiff University ranking in the top 150 universities in the 2014-15 QS survey of world universities.
Through the Welsh European Funding Office – Welsh businesses, universities, innovators and local authorities have a one-stop shop to access European funding for projects that will benefit Wales. The UK Government and the Scottish Government would be wise to copy the Welsh model to ensure other parts of the UK get their fair share of EU funding.
As someone who is setting up a research project in NW England, it would be a great advantage to have such a single portal to access European funding for projects in England and the UK. Such a forward and open approach is a driving force for why Wales is becoming an innovation hub in the UK. From the Morgan-Botti Laboratory in Cardiff University, one of only two facilities in the UK that can test the effects of lightning strikes on large composite structures such as aeroplane wings or wind turbine blades to the Wales Low/Zero Carbon Hub that is working towards the target of all new buildings in Wales achieving a zero carbon standard – Wales is leading and succeeding.
So Conference and Welsh Labour, it’s time to hold your head up high. Contrary to Cameron’s mean and petty shots that Wales is somehow the poor and sick part of the United Kingdom – the Welsh Government has been keeping up its fighting spirit and with a progressive heart been delivering for Wales and the Welsh people.
Cynhadledd Hapus 2015! Ymlaen i fuddugoliaeth ym mis Mai!
Brodie Houlette is the Events & Communication Officer for Labour Finance and Industry Group; he is also working to set up a Labour Party Space Network. He tweets at @brodiehoulette