A brand new partnership which includes Powys Teaching Health Board has secured £5 million funding to explore and research solution to rural challenges in Wales.

This new scheme will allow researcher and policymakers in Wales to work with rural communities and engage a range of people in innovating labs to assist in testing and developing intervention, community-led research project which aims to focus on local concerns, and other issues such as land use and net zero.

New data will be collected by the creation of a new Online Integrated Evidence Hub for rural Wales and through short studies and surveys. Innovation Partnership for Rural Wales, Cymru Wledig LPIP Rural Wales and the Local Policy will come together to connect communities, researchers and allow policymakers to support inclusive and sustainable development in rural Wales.

£5 million funding allocated to address rural community challenges in Wales
(James Griffiths)

The research partnership has set out aims to fill gaps in evidence and explore potential innovated solution to problems in rural Wales. The UKRI are also looking to enhance the use of research to contribute to effective policies to encourage a ‘wellbeing economy’.

The UKRI will focus on regenerative economy, enhancing health, net zero transition, empowering communities and culture, including Welsh language revitalisation and wellbeing and access to services.

Professor Michael Wood, The Director of the Rural Wales Local Policy and Innovation Partnership (LPIP), said: “Rural Wales faces significant challenges in growing its economy, providing good jobs and housing for local people, and maintaining services to ensure the wellbeing of communities. This is an exciting opportunity to bring together expertise from universities, businesses, the public sector and communities to work towards an inclusive, sustainable future for the region.”

Communities from across rural Wales will work with researcher and policymakers to explore innovative solutions to a range of issues faced by Welsh rural communities, such as “rural premium” on poverty.

The partnership is led by Aberystwyth University, and includes researchers at Bangor University, Cardiff University and the University of Gloucestershire, along with partners including Antur Cymru, the Centre for Alternative Technology, Datblygiadau Egni Gwledig, Represent Us Rural, Rural Health and Care Wales, Together for Change, and industry partner Sgema. It has been put together under the framework of the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data (WISERD).

Head of UKRI’s creating opportunities, improving outcomes theme, Professor Alison Park, said: “Local Policy Innovation Partnerships demonstrate UKRI’s commitment to bringing together a diverse range of partners, from local and devolved government, communities and businesses. Through these long-term collaborations, we will accelerate the use of research and innovation to reduce regional inequalities and drive sustainable, inclusive growth.”

The Rural Wales LPIP is one of four Local Policy and Innovation Partnerships funded by the ESRC, with others in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.