Rural Wales Local Policy and Innovation Partnership (phase one)

December 2023 | Cymru Wledig LPIP Rural Wales

a rocky cliff next to the ocean

What is the Rural Wales LPIP?

The proposed Rural Wales Local Policy and Innovation Partnership (LPIP) is a group of academic researchers, public bodies, and private and third sector stakeholders that aims to enhance the use of research and innovation to support policy-making, regional development and community resilience in rural Wales. It has been formed in response to a funding call from UKRI – the UK Government’s research and innovation funding body – which has two phases. Phase 1 will support the development of the partnership and its work plan over five months in 2023, including community and stakeholder engagement. Projects funded in Phase 1 were invited to apply for Phase 2 funding in late 2023, which could provide up to £3.5 million in funding over 3 years to support a broader and more substantive work programme. Funding has been awarded for Phase 1, and the proposal for Phase 2 funding since developed.

At the time of publication the LPIP partnership is awaiting notification of a Phase 2 UKRI bid to progress with plans outlined in this update.

Why a Rural Wales LPIP?

Rural Wales is a region of diverse communities that nonetheless face shared challenges. Long-term disadvantages of a dispersed population, poor accessibility, limited infrastructure and a low wage economy have been intensified by the impacts of Brexit and Covid-19. Communities are confronted by the loss of services, youth out-migration, unaffordable housing and a drop in Welsh-speakers. Both new opportunities and new challenges arise from the climate crisis and commitments to a net zero transition. However, the capacity of agencies and communities to respond to these challenges is constrained by a fragmented and dated evidence base, with gaps in geographical and thematic coverage and the most recent research on some topics dating from work by the Wales Rural Observatory in 2003-13. Many local and regional bodies in rural Wales have limited research or analysis capacity due to their small size. The Rural Wales LPIP will bring together academics, local government, development agencies, community groups and other stakeholders to find effective solutions to long-standing and emerging challenges. It will complement the priorities of the regional growth deals and the Welsh Government’s proposed new Rural Development Plan.

What is the Scope of the Rural Wales LPIP?

The Rural Wales LPIP will cover the nine predominantly rural local authority areas in Wales: Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Conwy, Denbighshire, Gwynedd, Isle of Anglesey, Monmouthshire, Pembrokeshire, and Powys. It will combine regional scale research, analysis and knowledge exchange with ‘deep dives’ into specific local communities. Initially, this will be focused on five pilot areas around Corwen, Newtown, Trawsfynydd, northern Ceredigion and north-west Pembrokeshire, before being rolled out more widely, including through an open competition for projects.

The work of the Rural Wales LPIP will be organized around four priority themes that have been identified through co-design with stakeholders: (1) Building a Regenerative Economy; (2) Supporting the Net Zero Transition; (3) Empowering Communities for Cultural Recovery; and (4) Enhancing Wellbeing in Place. Each priority area will be supported by a Thematic Group composed by academic researchers, stakeholders, and community representatives, with relevant expertise or interests, jointly convened by Academic and Stakeholder Co-Leads.

What will the Rural Wales LPIP do?

The work of the proposed Rural Wales LPIP will be divided over two phases, subject to the award of funding by the UKRI.

Phase 1 will concentrate on the further co-design and development of the partnership work programme through three work streams: (1) Mapping the Evidence Landscape, involving scoping of existing data to identify evidence gaps and opportunities for synergy between data held by different organizations; (2) Community and Stakeholder Engagement; and (3) Partnership and Phase 2 Proposal Development.

Community engagement will be a major part of Phase 1, involving workshops and other activities in the five pilot areas, working with local partners, which will identify issues for initial community-led research projects in Phase 2 and inform methods and models for community engagement and research. Virtual workshops will also be held with local authority evidence teams, community and town councils, businesses, farmers and groups representing ‘hard-to-reach’ populations; as will meetings with the WLGA Rural Forum, Public Service Boards, Regional Skills Partnerships, the Welsh Government, and other key organizations.

The detailed Phase 2 work programme will be elaborated in Phase 1 but is anticipated to involve six work streams: (1) Data Synergy, Mapping and Analysis, integrating secondary data from a range of sources to explore specified topics and produce an online, GIS-based evidence hub for rural Wales; (2) New Data Collection and Research, addressing evidence gaps through regional surveys and commissioned targeted responsive research studies on emerging issues; (3) Community-led Research, initially working in five pilot areas and subsequently rolled out through an open competition; (4) Innovation and Experimentation, exploring rural innovation and trying to find new solutions for key challenges; (5) Knowledge Exchange, Training and Capacity Building; and (6) Evaluation and Critical Reflection, including refining methods for effective collaboration, knowledge exchange and community engagement.

Topics for research, analysis and innovation projects will be informed by recommendations from the Thematic Groups. In addition to work by the LPIP core team, responsive research studies will be competitively commissioned and an open competition will be run for community-led research projects.

Who are the partnership members?

The Rural Wales LPIP will be coordinated from the Rural Futures Hub at Aberystwyth University, with Prof. Michael Woods as LPIP Director. Academic collaborators are based at Bangor University (Co-Director: Prof. Thora Tenbrink), Cardiff University (Co-Director: Prof. Paul Milbourne), and the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) at the University of Gloucestershire (Co-Director: Dr Matt Reed). Co-Director Meilyr Ceredig (Sgema) will lead on business liaison and on communications and engagement strategy.

Other core members of the LPIP have responsibility for developing work streams, including Prof. Scott Orford (Cardiff University; Data Synergy, Analysis and Mapping), Dr Lowri Cunnington Wynn (Aberystwyth University; Community-led Research), Prof. James Lewis (Y Lab, Cardiff University; Innovation); Dr Wyn Morris (Aberystwyth University; Knowledge Exchange and Capacity-Building) and Prof. Rhys Jones (Aberystwyth University; Evaluation and Critical Reflection); or as Co-Leads for the Thematic Groups, including Dr Sophie Bennett-Gillison (Aberystwyth University) and Bronwen Raine (Antur Cymru) for ‘Building a Regenerative Economy’; Dr Sophie Wynne-Jones (Bangor University) and Grant Peisley (Datblygiadau Egni Gwledig) for ‘Supporting the Net Zero Transition’; Dr Eifiona Thomas Lane (Bangor University) and Osian Gwynn (Pontio) for ‘Empowering Communities for Cultural Recovery’; and Prof. Paul Milbourne (Cardiff University) and Anna Prytherch (Rural Health and Care Wales) for ‘Enhancing Wellbeing in Place’.

Other collaborating partners include Ambition North Wales, Natural Resources Wales, One Voice Wales, the Welsh Local Government Association, Severn Wye, South Denbighshire Community Partnership, Tir Canol, and Together for Change. Further co-investigators and partners may be appointed during Phase 1. The Rural Wales LPIP will be affiliated with WISERD, with contributions from the WISERD Data Team, and potential links with other research centres including ADR Wales, NICRE and WCPP will be explored during Phase 1.

The work of the LPIP will also involve a team of research, innovation, engagement and administrative staff, to be appointed. Academic researchers and stakeholders not directly involved in the LPIP will be able to contribute by joining one or more of the Thematic Groups, including from beyond the core universities

Next steps

At the time of publication the LPIP partnership is awaiting notification of a Phase 2 UKRI bid to progress with plans outlined in this update.

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