Europe's first regional blueprint for technological development was unveiled in Wales this week by the principality's secretary of state William Hague.
Wales is one of four European regions (the others are Saxony in Germany, Lorraine in France and Limburg in Holland) invited by the European Commission to develop pilot technology plans that can subsequently be implemented across the continent.
The principality's programme, evolved following consultation with universities, colleges, schools and firms, focuses on bringing higher education institutions and industry together to promote innovation in the run-up to the millennium.
Among the key recommendations is an Innovation Challenge award scheme with competitions for universities, schools and business, together with more collaborative research forums. A forum for opto-electronic specialists is to be created, designed to emulate the success of the existing Medical Technical forum. This links clinicians from the University of Wales College of Medicine with local pharmaceutical and health care companies. It was praised by the Government in its recent white paper on competitiveness, and is featured in the blueprint as an example of good practice.
Another university department highlighted is the University of Wales Swansea's department of materials engineering. Already recognised as one of Swansea's major research income earners, having netted almost Pounds 3 million worth of projects in 1994-95 alone, it is now developing a pioneering teaching company scheme. This will allow the department's main industrial partner, British Steel, to bring in its supplier firms so they can work with the university addressing technical issues of common interest.
The University of Wales Cardiff's School of Pure and Applied Biology has received $350,000 (Pounds 230,000) from ten agro-chemical firms to control insecticide- resistant mosquitos in Mexico. A winner of the Office of Science and Technology's 1995 competition for industrial/academic partnerships, it also features as a model for the rest of Europe in the blueprint.
Both the University of Wales and the University of Glamorgan have stated their willingness to implement the recommendations. And as the plan's final objective is to increase technological awareness amongst the Welsh workforce, several FE colleges such as Ebbw Vale College and Carmarthenshire College of Technology are also joining in.