A partnership led by Aberystwyth University has received over £5 million in funding to research and explore solutions to rural challenges.
Cymru Wledig LPIP Rural Wales, the Local Policy and Innovation Partnership for Rural Wales, connects researchers, communities, and policy-makers to support inclusive, sustainable development.
Researchers and policymakers will work with communities from across rural Wales to explore innovative solutions to a range of major challenges faced by rural communities, such issues as the “rural premium” on poverty.
Funded by UKRI, the research partnership aims to fill evidence gaps, explore innovative solutions, and enhance the use of research to support effective policies to foster a ‘wellbeing economy’.
It will focus on the challenges of building a regenerative economy, supporting the net zero transition, enhancing health, wellbeing and access to services, and empowering communities and culture, including Welsh language revitalisation.
The Director of the Rural Wales Local Policy and Innovation Partnership (LPIP), Professor Michael Woods, 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.”
The three-year work programme will engage a range of people in innovation labs to develop and test interventions, community-led research projects focused on local concerns, and dialogues to discuss critical issues such as land use and net zero. It will also collect new data through surveys and short studies, and the creation of an Online Integrated Evidence Hub for rural Wales.
Professor Angela Hatton, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Knowledge Exchange and Innovation at Aberystwyth University, added:
“Rural communities and their futures are naturally very close to everyone's hearts here in Aberystwyth, and this important project will help us deepen our understanding of the challenges facing these areas. Professor Wood’s leadership of this new research partnership underlines once again how very fortunate we are to have leading experts in their fields working here. Such a high calibre of expertise is obviously of great value to our students, but also makes a vital contribution to society at large both locally and internationally.”
The partnership involves researchers at Aberystwyth University, 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).
Professor Alison Park, Head of UKRI’s creating opportunities, improving outcomes theme, 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. The research work is supported by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding as part of its work to creating opportunities and improve outcomes locally.