Launch of the Wales Ireland Network for Scientific Skills (WINSS)

Download the final WINSS Scientific Skills Report here.

Today, Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) launched a €2.6 million project to help develop and sustain jobs in the life sciences industries (i.e. pharmaceutical/biopharmaceutical, medical devices, chemicals, food, human and veterinary healthcare).  Funded under the Ireland Wales 2007-2013 INTERREG IVA programme, the “Wales Ireland Network for Scientific Skills” (WINSS) is a four year project, which runs until 2014.  

The WINSS initiative is managed by WIT’s Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre (PMBRC) and the Department of Chemistry at Bangor University in Wales. Over the next four years, over 200 people from Ireland and Wales are expected to participate in workshops, seminars and advanced scientific research programmes and 120 will receive certified qualifications ranging from special purpose to PhD level awards.

WIT’s Dr. Peter McLoughlin, Principal Investigator at the PMBRC, leads the 30-strong WINSS team (11 new members funded by the project) who will design and deliver scientific and generic training programmes across the two regions.  He said:

“We estimate that there are 150 life science industries employing over 15,000 people in the south east. However, a large number of these industries have difficulty recruiting staff with high-level skills.  WINSS aims to address this demand and provide professionals with transferable skills and ‘real world’ experience that are essential in the job market.

“Access to a strong research base and highly skilled professionals is a key consideration for companies from indigenous SMEs to multinationals. It is pivotal to securing current R&D activities as well as stimulating future regional growth and attracting new investment to the region,” he said.

He explained that the project has four main aims:

“We want to generate cross border economic activity by creating a strong applied research base in the human and animal health sectors.

“We will establish a training network that will address skills gaps and increase the number of highly skilled professionals with expertise in new and emerging technologies.

“The WINSS programme will also provide a re-training opportunity for those affected by the economic downturn.

“We will also establish the “Wales Ireland Network for Scientific Skills” to bring together industry and academia to discuss challenges, promote skills and training and encourage the exchange of ideas and communication between stakeholders,” he said.

Outlining the three major strands of the project, Dr June Frisby, the WIT-based project manager, explained that both institutions would work with existing industry collaborators and use local advertising to recruit participants.

“The advanced training programme combines industry experience and academic expertise to deliver scientific training courses for those working in the life sciences sector.  It provides a chance for people to enhance their current skills and broaden their career opportunities. It will be ‘industry-informed’ and will adapt quickly to changing industry needs.
 
“The ‘innovative research programme’ provides people with an opportunity to develop their scientific skills through laboratory-based research. It will give trainees the experience to fill high-end positions such as R&D development scientists, process analytical technologists and drug research scientists.

“To ensure the transfer of knowledge between industry and academia we will hold a number of training workshops in both Ireland and Wales.  We hope that the network will evolve over time and that industry will proactively come to us to discuss their needs and challenges and any skills gaps they have identified.

“The similarity in the experiences of both regions will enable us to work closely with Dr Hongyun Tai and all the team at Bangor University.  Both organisations have strong links to industry and have found that providing businesses with access to knowledge and facilities enables them to grow and develop new products, which, in-turn, boosts the local economy and promotes sustainability of the industry in the region.  The training programmes will run for the duration of the project and may well continue beyond this timeframe if they are successful,” she said.

The website for the WINSS Project can be viewed at http://winss.org/

Pictured is Tracey Coady (development scientist) and Dr. June Frisby (WINSS project manager) in the PMBRC, WIT.