University of Wales: Hi-tech scholarship scheme review

University of Wales
Image caption The talks between the University of Wales and Wefo were described as 'positive'

A review into the management of a University of Wales (UoW) scheme to provide hi-tech scholarships in industry is being carried out, it has emerged.

The Welsh government confirmed it suspended payments to the Prince of Wales Innovation Scholarships (Powis) back in January.

The scheme is worth £11m.

The UoW said funding reviews were expected and it was "fully confident" payments would resume shortly.

Just under half the funding for the initiative came from the European Regional Development Fund, channelled through the Welsh government's European Funding Office (Wefo).

It offers placements for graduates to carry out research in hi-tech industries in Wales such as biosciences, IT, chemical engineering and electronics.

The scholarships are worth £75,000 each over three years, with the graduates expected to work towards a University of Wales PhD.

Some graduates on the scheme are also studying towards Swansea University PhDs.

The funding includes tuition fees and payment of travel expenses for overseas graduates.

The project had been awarded just over £5m in European funding but only £400,000 of the money had been transferred by Wefo when the payments were halted.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said the review of Powis was being carried out by its corporate governance and assurance division.

"Payments to the Powis project are currently suspended while a review of the project is undertaken," said the spokesperson.

'Advanced dialogue'

The UoW has invested £1.4m in the scheme so far and business partners have provided £334,000.

A spokesman said it has worked closely with Wefo and understood that payment would be suspended pending a review.

"The project is currently being re-profiled following the review and payments will recommence as normal upon completion of that process", the spokesman added.

The university stressed that no scholar or supporting company would be disadvantaged and that funding reviews were always expected.

"The university is in advanced dialogue with Wefo and is fully confident that payments will resume shortly upon completion of the review".

The talks between the University of Wales and Wefo were described as "positive".

The University of Wales also confirmed that Professor Marc Clement, its former vice chancellor, has a declared business interest in some of partner companies involved in the Powis initiative.

The spokesman said Prof Clement, who is now the university's president, has a shareholding worth less than 5% in CyDen Ltd and is the firm's vice chairman.

He is also chairman of Calon Cardio Technology Ltd and Allerna Therapeutics Ltd.

All three companies are supporters of the scheme and have received Powis scholars.

The University of Wales said since its launch in 2000, Powis had already exceeded its European funding targets for the number of enterprises which it has created, investment induced and the number of new products registered.

A spokesman said within two years of its five year programme, it has already raised £12.5m.

This is more than the £10m investment target and the overall cost of the programme itself and "significantly more" than the £400,000 in European regional development fund grant drawn down to date.

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