Dec 172014
 

The ‘Welsh’ Government has just announced the first allocation of the 2014 – 2020 EU structural funds. Twenty million pounds is to go towards a new £40m innovation and enterprise centre at Aberystwyth university, to be built next to IBERS (Institute of Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences).

Writing in Monday’s Wasting Mule self-styled ‘Finance and Government Business Minister’ Jane Hutt waxed lyrical about this project in an article headed ‘Vital that we make most of EU investment to transform Hutt pieceWales’. (Click on image to enlarge and click here for online version.) A headline that is insulting to the intelligence of anyone who appreciates why we – almost uniquely in Europe – are now receiving a third round of structural funds. The reason is that the ‘Welsh’ Government squandered the first two rounds of funding on projects with no chance of success or wasted it on Labour’s right-on cronies in the Third Sector, who have flocked to Wales since devolution to get their noses in the trough. Let me spell it out. The reason Wales is getting a third round of structural funds is because the ‘Welsh’ Government, ‘Welsh’ Labour, and the London-answering civil servants who run Wales, have all screwed up. And it may have been deliberate.

Let us all understand that simple fact before proceeding, because as someone once said, if we don’t learn from past mistakes then we are almost certain to repeat them. Seeing as all the mistakes with EU structural funds have occured within recent memory no one should have forgotten what went wrong. Moving on . . .

As I’ve already said, the new centre is to go up alongside the IBERS complex at Gogerddan, making it reasonable to assume a connection, so here’s another chance to link with the IBERS website. You will note that the Wasting Mule piece mentions alongside IBERS the ‘Beacon Centre of Excellence for  bio-refining’, so I also checked out their website. It was no surprise to read that this partnership between the universities at Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea “is backed with £10.6 million from the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government”. But to do what exactly? Well, it seems that the academics and students at IBERS and Beacon experiment with crops, animal feed and the like, the idea being that some of them will come up with a good idea that can be marketed and make oodles of money. As, I say, that’s the hope. The Beacon website provides a list of companies with which it is in partnership. Let’s look at them one by one.

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ABER INSTRUMENTS seems to be a partnership between Aberystwyth university and the Centre for Alternative Technology in Corris and sells to the brewing industry. Given the partners, Welsh involvement is predictably minimal. The company seems to be in reasonable financial health.

AGROCEUTICAL PRODUCTS is based in Glasbury on Wye, close to the border, which might raise queries about the use of EU structural funds allocated to west Wales. Its claim to fame appears to be that “Agroceutical Products’ work on the production of Galanthamine from daffodils grown in Wales was featured in the BBC’s Countryfile program which was broadcast on Sunday 24th April 2011.” Which seems to jar with what we read elsewhere on the website about the company not being formed until 2012.

AXIUM PROCESS Ltd is certainly based within the ‘Objective One’ area, in Hendy, just outside Swansea. Axium’s business is stainless steel fabrication, so it’s not immediately obvious what links it with academics in Aberystwyth specialising in biorefining. Financially, Axium appears to be up Shit Creek, with DueDil suggesting net assets of -£624,000. The major shareholder, with some 76% of the shares is Moda Systems Ltd of the same address, and with the same directors. Moda appears to be in better financial health than Axium with net assets (at June 2010) of some £200,000, but the company does not appear to trade.

CLIFFORD JONES TIMBER GROUP appears to be an established Welsh company based in Rhuthun with a net worth of over four million pounds.

COMPTON GROUP is a property development company based in Swansea which “invests in biotech research at Welsh universities”. This munificence is explained thus on the Compton website: “Compton Group’s interest in research projects is primarily financial; we look to out-license the intellectual property at an early stage . . . “. Phew! thank God for that; for one terrible minute I thought the ugly lovely town was producing philanthropists!

DTR Medical is another Swansea company, formed in 2005, this one produces medical and surgical instruments. The company is owned 100% by its managing director John Richard Salvage, of Surrey, and is part of his Medsa Group Ltd. Mr Salvage is quite the entrepreneur, though some of his ventures, such as Saifer Hygiene Ltd, are among the departed, while others struggle on through this Vale of Tears, including the Medsa Group itself which, if DueDil is correct, has liabilities of £1.5m.

FARMACEUTICAL INNOVATIONS is a new company, Incorporated July 2011, based at Llanfair P G and involved in “the clean extraction of phytochemicals from sustainable sources”. Financial health would appear to be shaky, with liabilities climbing and assets dropping. The company is run and owned (33.33% each) by Richard Douglas Henry Potterill (aged 29), Dr Kevin Wall (58) and Jennifer Helen Wall (29). The two younger partners seem to haFruiting Bodiesve no previous business experience but Kevin Wall is also a director of Ingenious Extractions Ltd and Zun Energy Ltd, the first based at an address in Holywell, Flintshire, the latter in Rhuthun.

FRUITING BODIES deals in fungus extracts and is part of the Red Pig Farm, a hippy venture located in Bethlehem, near Llangadog. A 100ml bottle of fungus extract will set you back £17,50. (Though you can get 6 bottles for £100. Click on image to enlarge.) I could find no company number for either Fruiting Bodies or Red Pig Farm, suggesting they are not registered companies. Maybe they deal in cash, or barter.

MDF RECOVERY is another very small enterprise, a two-man band by the look of it. The website is odd in that it does not divulge where the company is based, nor does it give a company number. Though the STD code given locates the company in Macclesfield, Cheshire, and I was about to leave it at that before another line of enquiry presented itself. This told me that the company is in fact registered at 36 Castle Street, Beaumaris, which is an office of the Letterbox Recruiting agency. I suspect Letterbox lives up to its name by providing a Welsh address for MDF Recovery. Financially, MDF is not a well outfit.

PENNOTEC is another company that does not provide either a postal address or a company number on its website. Pennotec is almost certainly part of the Pennog group, with which it shares a phone number and, despite the Welsh-sounding name, the ‘phone number suggests that Pennog is based in Huddersfield. Yet, here again, despite the telephone number suggesting an operation in England, the company is actually registered at a private residence in Nefyn. And once again, I must report a company with assets dipping and liabilities on the rise.

PHYTOQUEST provides the welcome opportunity for me to tell you that this is a Welsh company, with an Aberystwyth address and an Aberystwyth telephone number. In fact, the registered company address is c/o IBERS. Though when I say ‘Welsh’, I mean it’s located in Wales, for there don’t seem to be any Welsh people involved with the company. Unlike some of the other companies I’ve looked at I’m pleased to be able to report that Phytoquest is in reasonable financial health, though these things are relative. By which I mean that between May 2013 and May 2014 Phytoquest’s net worth dropped by 75.11% and its liabilities increased by 1,177% in the same period.

PLANT FIBRE TECHNOLOGY was Incorporated in 2005 but the website is still under construction! Based in Bangor the company is wholly owned by a Gary Newman, who may not be an academic, whereas the company secretary glories in the name of Dr Mary Anne Pasteur. Mr Newman is involved with a few other companies, all of them unlikely to ever trouble the Stock Exchange. Plant Fibre Technology itself leads a precarious financial existence with net assets of £88 at March 2014 and total liabilities of £11,616.

SPENCER ECA is based in Penrhiwllan near Llandysul and is definitely a growing company . . . unfortunately liabilities seem to be growing as fast, if not faster, than assets. That said, Spencer ECA seems to be one of very few of the companies on the Beacon list that actually employs people, let’s hope they’re Welsh. Spencer ECA also has a presence in Ireland, Scotland, England, Swansea and Newtown.

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So those are the companies listed as ‘partners‘ on the Beacon website, and Beacon is linked with IBERS, the recipient of £20m of EU Structural Funds. Perhaps the kindest thing one can say about these companies is that they’re a mixed bunch. What we have in many cases is academics deluding themselves they’re entrepreneurs, but what the hell! it’s someone else’s money. And that’s a major problem nowadays, dream up any ridiculous project using the magic words ‘eco’, ‘bio’, ‘enviro’ and you can just hold out your hands and wait for the money to drop. Throw in a glossy new building and lots of publicity in the specialist press and civil servants and politicians can’t give out the money fast enough.

Though what are we to make of what appear to be English companies taking out letter-box addresses in areas of Wales qualifying for Structural Funds? That looks a bit iffy.

There is nothing wrong with universities co-operating with business, I support that, but the difference between what’s happening in Aberystwyth and what happens elsewhere is obvious. Real universities in England, Scotland and elsewhere have major corporations fighting to invest hundreds of millions of pounds, yet here in Wales there’s no queue of big companies, the money has to come in hand-outs of EU funding. Hardly surprising when we remember that Aberystwyth is a refuge for third-rate English students . . . with academics to match. Are these going to come up with world-beating ideas? No; so why waste money on them?

You will have noticed as we went through Beacon’s partners an almost total absence of Welsh involvement. So will the latest £20m create any jobs for Welsh people? No. Will it provide facilities or amenities that will benefit local communities? No. Will this money create infrastructure that will be of wider benefit than just for the university? No. Like the countless millions already wasted on Aberystwyth University this latest £20m will be squandered on academics’ playthings, hippy ventures and companies that will never employ a single Welsh person.

The first two rounds of Objective One / Structural Funds were wasted. Now, with this announcement it looks as if the third round of funding will also be wasted. This money has been given by the EU to raise living standards, to create employment, to build infrastructure, in the poorest areas of western Europe and the people living in those areas. If it is not used for that purpose then the EU should step in and withhold the funding. Seeing as we Welsh get no benefit from EU funding it would be better to go without it entirely than see it used to fund the colonisation of our country.

  41 Responses to “EU Structural Funds: Here We Go Again?”

  1.  

    Good work, thanks for that , no doubt I will sharpen the old pencil and respond/comment in detail later.

    However one line made me chuckle as I read it – ” What we have in many cases is academics deluding themselves they’re entrepreneurs…………..” So true. These are people who think they are on a shitty deal at Uni as lecturers, researchers, or whatever, and think that by acquiring a label like M.D., C.E.O , or Tech Director they are permitted to engage in shifting through salary bands at rates likely to make a hedge fund wonk blush.

    Well it ain’t like that. The commercialisation of academic research is a risky venture which is why it’s tough attracting funding. This creates a “space” where good government can help these embryos progress through a gestation process which may take years and sometimes doesn’t bear the expected fruits. It is irresponsible of government at Welsh, UK , or European levels to foster an unreal level of expectation by hawking large dollops of public money ( EU funds are public funds, just like the stuff that comes from Whitehall ) which are then farmed out by a host like the Uni in what appears to be a quite indiscriminate manner.

    Is there evidence of any strategy, and adherence to that strategy ?

    what are the findings of post investment audits ? setting of milestones and attainment of key metrics of the business plan,

    what other performance monitoring , if any , is entered into on a regular basis ?

    and as you mentioned, what lessons are learned from previous rounds ?

    I suspect that : nil nil nil nil is the score on all 4 counts and there are plenty more Q ?’s that can be asked !

  2.  

    So, that’s 1.75% of the total going to something that’s next door to something that doesn’t get your full approval?

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      What?

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        Total funding programme for Wales from the EU in the new round is £2billion. If we simply look at the approximate figures and ignore past funding on the IBERS project next door, £20,000,000 is 1% of £2,000,000,000.

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      What part of the word waste do you have difficulty with ? Public funds going down the drain is waste however you choose to dress it up. Country is on its ass, so investment for recovery should be well thought out with clear defined goals and objectives, not shrouded in tecno/bureaucratic bullshit. If you think that fluffy projects need funding, start a whip around but keep your paws out of the public pocket

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        I didn’t mention waste. What I have trouble with is guilt by association. By all means criticise but don’t go negative on a new project by highlighting what is going on in the next door building.
        I don’t know much about biology so, don’t feel able to say much more about this subject. However, I do support the research carried out at Swansea University’s Science and Engineering faculties.

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          I’m not picking on an outfit totally unconnected that just happens to be located next door, that would be silly, like hating your neighbours just because you’re an annoying, nit-picking little plonker. Read the guff, they’re closely connected, maybe one and the same.

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            The guff? TL;DR – It’s nice to see that someone is keeping an eye on things though.
            http://politicalscrapbook.net/2014/12/ukip-christmas-dinner-menu/

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              Are you suggesting they don’t deserve every morsel? Or you a francophobe?

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              reinforces the “snouts in trough” image which they used to relate to other parties in EU. Falange & co just the same, or even worse !

              More waste mate, it’s all around you and it’s the f***ers telling us to tighten our belts that are most wasteful.

              Coming back to this EU funds issue, you really have to question far more closely how our universities are best placed to select projects and manage the transition of academic research into commercially valid outputs. Every academic thinks his/her pet project is A.1 material meriting all sorts of investment, but exposed to the acid test of attracting funding they have to fall back onto the public purse.

              This serves to do at least 2 things : 1. it sucks money into lame ducks 2. it diverts money from other projects elsewhere which had greater merit, but by virtue of location, perhaps, did not get a look in.

              I don’t think it’s an issue of academic discipline either. You rightly point to excellent commercialized outputs from Swansea, some of them now well down the track into further launches of new products and services, very innovative and commendable. However there remains a hard core of aspiration that seems to be feeding off some unreal apraisal of research output, maybe just driven by envy of the successes of recent years. Well fair enough, but at least let’s make some effort to weed out these “no hopers” because when they go into receivership or limbo, no one seems to measure/quantify the losses ( i.e waste ! ) to the public purse, the unpaid supplier base, unpaid HMRC, VAT etc etc. Also, as mentioned previously, is there any attempt at understanding why things fail ? Is there a reason why there is a high level of slow burners/ zombies in any one area ? Poor supervision of investment ?

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                (Response to Deiniol as well)

                There are a number of fundamental problems in Wales with allocating EU funding.

                1/ Politicians and civil servants want to get the maximum publicity from handing out this funding, therefore the more ‘imaginative’ or ‘ground-breaking’ the project the more publicity will be guaranteed. This actually drives them to the more unrealistic projects. In fact, I often think that the publicity generated is more important than the viability of the projects.

                2/ Due to the useless media we have in Wales, capable of nothing more demanding than publishing press releases as ‘news’, these investments will be uncritically reported. And it should go without saying that there will be no regular follow-ups to see how the projects are doing. We shall hear no more of these projects unless there’s a bit of good news to report, or it all ends in tears. With the latter far more likely.

                3/ There may be jobs created, while the funding lasts, but these – certainly in the case of the funding to Aber Uni – will not be self-sustaining jobs and are unlikely to be done by Welsh people. Ergo this is a form of colonialism. It is funding colonialism.

                4/ Since 2000 there seems to have been a pattern of deliberateluy not investing in major national projects that could have lasting benefitsd for the Welsh public at large. Instead the money has been squandered on small (vote-buying?) local projects or else squandered on Labour’s cronies in the Third Sector, many of whom have moved to Wales specifically to grab what they can of this largesse.

                5/ Seeing as we are talking about Aberystwyth, the best way the EU funding could be used would be in re-opening the Carmarthen – Aberystwyth railway line. It would create hundreds of jobs in the construction stage and it would leave a lasting amenity for tens of thousands of local people, and visitors, in areas of Wales in receipt of Structural Funds, while also creating dozens, maybe more, permanent jobs.

  3.  

    On a bit of a tangent but relates to the subject.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/11299261/League-tables-the-top-universities-for-research.html

    Not a big fan of league tables but even allowing for some flaws/bias with scoring techniques it makes for sad reading.
    Welsh institutions predictably led by Cardiff in 17th place with “better scores” than some respected English redbricks. Next we get Swansea at 40, Aber at 49 and Bangor at 55. Pretty poor showing.

    Now some of the big “spenders” would say “pump more money into them” but I suspect most real investors would see any major “old university ” outside the top 20 as a bit of a recovery stock which would need lots of scrutiny before chancing any funds.

    the whole point here is that when you do some research into the history of spin out businesses Cardiff is way ahead of the other Welsh uni’s, Swansea has had some noteable successes,and much of the successes is down to taking the outputs of research which offers some kind of real valid benefit and commercializing it. The other uni’s often seem to be stuck in a mindset which seeks to imitate “success” but fails to recognise the often lower commercial validity of their activity. That’s where objective external critical thinking comes in. Cardiff appear to apply it, the others appear not to. The results are self evident.

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      Something else I noted with these tables is that they were compiled with information submitted by the universities themselves with, it seems, minimal independent verificatiion. The tables produced will now be used to allocate public funding. So there’s a clear incentive for institutions to overstate the quality of the research carried out.

      The LSE and Imperial College are said to be overtaking Oxbridge, which misses the point that Oxbridge turns out thinkers not doers, which means less opportunity for research investment. Even so, this reflects the dominance of London in other spheres. According to William Cullerne Bown of Research Fortnight: “The biggest losers are Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham and Leeds. The North is taking a hammering. The government is indeed rebalancing the economy – but towards London instead of away from it. Outside the elite in the South East, almost all the other leading universities in England now face relentless decline.”

      Here in Wales we see a similar picture. I have always argued that Cardiff has no interest in serving the national interest, just the city itself. Cardiff’s ambition is to be a mini London, sucking in funding, talent, investment and then arguing – as London does – that this is being done for the national good. People outside of London are now rejecting this specious and self-serving nonsense, and it’s about time we did the same in Wales.

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        Jac There is mention of some form of external critique – it says that ” The research of 52,061 academic staff from 154 UK universities was peer-reviewed by a series of panels comprising UK and international experts. ……The panels judged 30 per cent of the submitted work to be ‘world-leading’ (4*) and a further 46 per cent to be ‘internationally excellent’ (3*). Only 4* and 3* research wins funding”.

        I’m happy that there was a degree of external scrutiny although as stated earlier there is invariably a bias of some kind simply due to selection of weighting values.

        Your conclusion regarding English Uni’s is sound as is your view of the Welsh Uni’s. However a further “drag” on Welsh relative performance is that provincial England, having lost out to Oxbridge & London, compete vigourously for the work that the Welsh uni’s might desire ( i.e the commercially promising activity) . Right now, Cardiff seems to be the only institution making a bit of a fight of it. It’s axiomtic ( well almost ) that good research attracts more research and our Uni’s need to embrace that view of life if they are to put up a better show. The experience discussed in your article portrays the exact opposite in that much of the output , while it may add to the store of knowledge, is at best of marginal commercial value.

  4.  

    The new project at Aber Uni is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the volume of EU funding pushed into the Welsh higher education sector.

    There has been a real drive over the last 15 years for Universities in Wales to court businesses and ‘support’ them with research and development and in doing so, take a stake in the intellectual property generated by the university which is then commercialized within the business. The premise being that ideas generated can provide additional income for the institution, although you’ll have difficulty finding this out as the Royal Charter by some are established helps them to keep their finances to themselves. Handy that.

    Indeed, Aber has it’s own Commercialisation and Consultancy Services division which is set up to undertake this very activity and I’m sure they will be rubbing their hands with glee at all the willing ‘stakeholders’ who have rocked up to be a part of the new project at IBERS.

    A few of years ago, Aber Uni received just over £10m from WEFO for the creation of the Visualisation Centre on the Penglais Hill campus. Much was promised in terms of job creation and prosperity. There were some high profile examples of successes of the centre including the ability to create 3D modeling of cancer tumors to aid treatment, but on the whole, the centre, as far as I’m aware, delivered little in terms of wider local benefit to business.

    For certain businesses across Wales, the centre actually displaced them in the market place, with the Aber Uni owned See3D Ltd tendering and competing for the same work. What business start up or small business can afford a £10m investment to get into the game?

    The University sector in Wales has received a frankly hideous amount of structural funding over the years both directly and indirectly, but the problem remains that we simply cannot pull ourselves above the GDP threshold and will keep qualifying for the highest levels of aid from the EC time and time again. What this tells me, is that the value being added is not being kept in Wales.

    Change of strategy required me thinks.

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      As I’ve said, I am completely in favour of co-operation between universities and business. But the way this happens in other countries, or at other universities, is that business and academe come to an understanding based on mutual benefits. So maybe business will fund research and pay the university in return for manufacturing and marketing rights. But here, in the case of Aberystwyth, it’s public funding being poured into a third-rate institution. Why? Because no serious private company will invest millions in a university like Aberystwyth.

      All of which means that the public funding received is largely spent on the hobbies or pet projects of unimpressive academics and students who – let’s be honest – are not of the highest quality either. Which obviously results in very few jobs, maybe none at all for locals. What sort of return is that for tens of millions of pounds in public funding? Is this how the EU expects it to be used?

  5.  

    To try and answer your last two questions Jac, if we use the Visualisation Centre at Aber as a continued example, according to the narrative on the WEFO website the project should have generated 211 new, high value jobs across the Objective 1 region and safeguarded a further 411. On top of this, there was an expectation of 70 new tech companies forming as a result of its being. Now, with a not insignificant staffing budget of £2.34m, you’d expect these targets to be smashed.

    OK, so, where did we get to with these outputs for the investment? Any evaluation of the project or the performance of the applicant organization? Wales Audit Office Report available? Any PR released with regard to the great success of the project? Not that I can find. What level of scrutiny is being placed on these large projects whose costs run into the millions and if they don’t deliver, what checks and balances are in place to ensure that doesn’t happen again?

    I’m unfairly using Aber as an example here. Our higher education sector per se has produced some very good results for business in Wales with EC funding, but it has to be looked at proportionately against the investment.

    Whilst our friends in the Bay slap each other on the back at toughening up on the AWEMA debacle, that was small fry in the grand scheme of things. The fundamental is that Welsh Government is incapable of delivering a programme for Wales that will turn the GDP ship around in the right direction and it looks as if they’ve given up on West Wales and Valleys and will look towards Cardiff, Newport and Bristol to help their cause (votes).

    The politicization of economic development in Wales was never going to work and no matter what second rate PR spin is put on it, the GDP figures tell the same story year on year and we’ll be having this same conversation at the end of the next tranche of funding!

  6.  

    Deiniol. You are spot on. The lack of any kind of measurement or supervision is mind boggling hence my earlier remark – “public funds going down the drain is waste however you choose to dress it up”.
    I suspect that the “powers” know there is vast likelihood of low or no return so they deliberately avoid putting anything too rigorous in place to avoid too much accountability and attendant publicity. However in a country of scarce financial resources it becomes even more urgent that we do not repeat previous wasteful behaviours, whether driven by academics or the political bureaucrats.

  7.  

    Wouldnt argue that successive welsh labour governments havent used European ‘structural funds’ as well as they could have, indeed its a sign of failure that we’ve qualified again! But amid all the gloom and doom being spouted about Wales here someone must clearly be doing something right in Welsh universities

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-30524940

  8.  

    Success of leverage at the Seattle cluster is measured as a percentage of value of sales tax exemption. At MIT success is measured as leverage of cluster turnover to academic fund. In Cambridge the academic cluster is measured as a ratio of business tax exemption to investment. What success measure has Jane Hutt calculated? I see none of the companies listed by Jac paying back the cash invested into the local economy anytime soon. There’s no Boeing, Microsoft, or Pfizer type companies (see US and England clusters) tempted to become involved in this New Enterprise Campus. I therefore question whether any business worth it’s salt has any confidence in Prof April McMahon. It appears Jane and April are just sloshing about EU funding without cause, measure or direction.

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      Comparing EU Structural Funds with Investment / Venture Capital from billion dollar companies?

      •  

        Yes. The objective of EU structural funds is to leverage economic growth. In this case by spinning off enterprise from expertise and research conducted by universities. An example of this being done correctly is in Latvia. Their Ministry of Finance has a monitoring unit and pre-set evaluation indicators. Examples of ‘start-ups’ in Latvia using these funds are SAF Tehnika (NASDAQ quoted), Forticom (two students now a multi-million company), Lattelecom (subsidiary of Baltic Computer Academy) and Grindex photochemical. All of these companies in the Latvia academic cluster have attracted inward capital from the global blue chip ‘billion dollar companies. What are Jane Hutts pre-set evaluation indicators and how many global enterprises are in on the Aberystwyth scheme?

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          Firms providing Telecommunications, Social Networking, Internet Service Provider systems are to be expected in this day and age at the Capital City (in this case Riga) of a country. Don’t expect them to crop up out of the blue in a region that is noted for bad mobile phone reception.

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          You have provided examples of the Latvian Government financing start-ups. There is nothing new or special about a standard telecoms company, a social network site (btw: the students sold out to the Russians), IT solutions and a pharmaceutical firm.

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            The point is that when these industries were established as start ups in Latvia, they didn’t previously exist. If a company was built up from nothing in Penygoes or Tywyn and sold to the Russians for a billion euro, that would count as a major success in my book. Other enterprises which currently don’t exist in Wales may be the future. Why don’t we farm Oysters in the Mawddach? Why don’t we ban tourist divers from Dorothea quarry and farm algae for cosmetics instead? Why don’t we BUILD yachts instead of importing them to the shores of Llyn Tegid? All such enterprises would attract a punt from multinationals if primed with EU structural finds and a smattering of university boffins. Our real enemies are among us, born without imagination.

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              . . . and ambition.

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              Yes. They were start ups in a new country founded following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Any proposal to do in Wales what the Latvians did would probably be met with laughter in Westminster thereby ensuring no funding.
              Your suggestion about oyster farms is interesting. http://www.southwales-eveningpost.co.uk/fishy-set-return-bay/story-23483361-detail/story.html and the proposed Tidal Lagoon off the eastside Swansea coast includes shellfish cultivation. Note how ABP (it used to be Associated British Ports a privatised company created by Thatcher but now a private consortium based in Guernsey) has refused to allow footpath access for tourists if the project goes ahead.

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              Bychan – If two students in Wales had created a successful networking site and sold it for a large sum of money to a multi-national, the money would more than likely have gone to a new offshore account – Zilch benefit to us.

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              Just in response to Brychan and Macsen, we do have some good home grown projects in the form of the Mumbles Oyster restoration. A project funded at a mere fraction of the IBERS investment at the top of this article and will hopefully lead to a sustainable fishery in Swansea.

              While we’re on the subject of ABP, just a bit further along from the birthplace of Jac on the end of Mumbles Pier, the old Queens Dock is home to the recently established largest rope mussel fishery in Wales.

              Brychan – want yachts made in Wales? Dim probs:

              http://swallowboats.com

              Beautiful sailing boats made in Gwbert. Just made an investment to expand the business and product range, employing a number of local skilled people.

              http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-mid-wales-26519173

              My point? – there is ambition and imagination amongst people in this country, but we need damn sight more of it to drag ourselves out of the GDP doldrums!!!

  9.  

    Jac asks “How can you possibly come to that conclusion? You eejit!” Er because a third of university research in Wales is world class! Our good manners preclude us from pointing out who’s the ‘eejit’ here Jac.

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      The eejit is whoever believes that crap about Welsh universities – apart perhaps from Swansea and Cardiff – being ‘world class’.

    •  

      this exchange is already highlighting the lack of clarity that surrounds this entire subject. Since the mediocre result that I first flagged up on 18/12/14 others have been able to retrive press coverage of a far more favourable kind.

      BBC’s Arwyn Jones says ……..”Cardiff University has calculated that it is now ranked 5th in the UK for the quality of its research, claiming it has now broken into the “golden triangle” of Oxford, Cambridge and London, and confirmed its place as a world-leading university………..A Welsh government spokesperson commented said the findings showed Welsh universities were now rightly recognised as leaders in their fields, not only in the UK, but across the globe”.

      All good but self congratulatory stuff !

      Now let’s start looking for this “global excellence”. Once we have discovered a number of promising spin outs from Cardiff & Swansea Uni’s, some of which have really matured well, we start to come up against that which Jac described so well in his opening text. There may have been 1 or 2 spinouts from Aber that have survived and may be on the borderline of prospering but most of these “ventures” are busy disappearing up their own arses while guzzling away merrily at the trough of public funding.

      Now it suits those academics desparate for funds to play with and the politicians who sponsor them to have us believe this world class bullshit. Most of them would not recognise “world class ” if it hit them on their noses but it’s a convenient phrase to trot out when they have very little else to say. If this carries on they will continue to hide hehind the small number of real successes while they pour more funds into a hole in the ground. And sadly local communities will see little or no benefit in terms of any kind of multipiler effect.

      And DG – the same fundemental principles apply whether it’s Public money or VC funds – what does the investment entail, what are the likely benefits/payback ?,over what time scale ? or are you asserting that public funds are available for blowing in any direction ?

  10.  

    This is more likely to deliver the goods in terms of jobs &wealth creation.

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/business/business-news/first-companies-spin-out-alacrity-foundations-8311278

    a scheme combining graduate talent with some top quality research output will be far more likely to succeed, so let’s ditch the old ” any lame duck gets a break” approach, get some critical thinking into place and invest those EU funds with some serious intent. Aber & Bangor just as likely to be successful locations if they pick their projects wisely.

  11.  

    “Most [new] products fail.” According to some estimates, the failure rate is as high as 90% – http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jun/15/happiness-is-being-a-loser-burkeman

  12.  

    Pontio!

    •  

      don’t start on that !! what a bloody farce – it appears that no one was/is controlling the contract, all parties shuffling along dragging their asses and playing some kind of “low volume” blame game, or “not my fault guv” game. The client/customer is awash with blokes wielding bits of paper, as is the main contractor, yet no one seems to have grasped that the thing was sliding into arrears. These jokers are all well paid yet unable to perform. Any one been sacked ? not likely

  13.  

    University funding reform ‘will cause brain drain’ to London
    http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/dec/21/university-funding-reform-brain-drain-london
    London and SE England 1 ; The Rest 0
    It’s like playing a game of chance where the pieces, be they cards, dice etc., are rigged in favour of the house.

  14.  

    You provide a valuable service exposing this, but it’s bloody depressing to continually read about EU money still being wasted and Labour Minister’s who keep getting away with it,

    On an equally depressing note the Treasury civil servants who played a big part in smearing and discrediting YES Scotland economic message were rewarded this week for their efforts by the Cabinet Office, it makes me want to vomit http://www.newsnetscotland.scot/index.php/scottish-politics/9875-treasury-officials-praised-for-no-campaign-work

  15.  

    Jac I think you should write a critique of “apologists for failure”, or something similar, about how waste and incompetence became the norm for performance in Welsh governance and business conduct, thus reinforcing the dependency culture in its various forms. Reading some of the stuff coming out of the Bay – self congratulatory muck, and even some of the justifications on here, makes me wonder whether we’ll ever recover.

    45 years ago, 1969-70, when Carlo was young! and Emyr Llew , Dafydd Iwan , Caio, Coslett, Glyn Rowlands, you, et al were full of fight, I honestly thought we could go independent and creat a viable trading nation that would pay its own way. Since then we’ve gone backwards so far that now our main Party spends most of its time carping about “fair shares” from the London slops bucket and seldom looks at how we might stand on our own 2 feet again. It hurts.

Ok, you’ve read what I think, now what do you have to say?