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Economic development in wales

The region of focus in this study is Southwest Wales and in particular, the City of Swansea hinterland. The development of this region has a turbulent history stretching over the past two centuries and now faces many new challenges which are similar to those faced by regions throughout the world.

Many new initiatives have been introduced with the aim of addressing the economic challenges in Wales. Such initiatives include the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) and Welsh European Funding Organization (WEFO) investment at Swansea University in the area of Life Science and NanoHealth. Inclusive to this is the involvement of Swansea University in the Texas/United Kingdom Collaborative, a research network focused on the emerging nano technologies in Texas and the United Kingdom particularly in the emerging Bio/Nano Health cluster in the Southwest region of Wales. This thesis will focus on the challenges related the knowledge economy and in particular the creation of sustainable clusters. These challenges include not only worldwide phenomena such as globalisation and the emergence of the Knowledge Economy, but also an industrial and social legacy that leaves Wales with a relatively weak economic base. Due to this, Wales has many sectors in decline or facing intense pressure from overseas competitors, where low wages make activities such as manufacturing cheaper.

The following sections chart the economic history of Wales, tying it in with the various instruments applied by European, UK and Welsh governmental layers to support economic development. This brief history is discussed in the context of the accompanying political changes.

The industrial revolution

While the industrial revolution is often associated with certain technological advances the concept stems not from adoption of a particular invention, but rather from the start of a massive economic restructuring that saw the United Kingdom established as the world’s first industrial nation (Mathias 1983). This restructuring saw the migration of economic activity from agriculture to industry and the migration of the workforce from the countryside to towns and cities (Stiglitz 1999). While agriculture started to become mechanised production industries such as textiles, iron and steel became drivers of economic growth. These industries, however, were not the preserve of manual unskilled labour. ‘Skilled’ workers were required to sign legally enforceable contracts that would prevent them taking their knowledge elsewhere if they received a better offer (Ross 2005). Though this would not relate to circuit layouts in microelectronics or recombinant DNA, it was an early example of practice we now see as common in our modern ‘Knowledge-Based’ economy.

The growth of the Welsh economy was however to be boosted by the great innovation of the industrial revolution; the steam engine (Ross 2005). The great impact of this was not in making the process of mining more efficient but in providing a global market for Welsh coal to power the steamships and locomotives of the British Empire.

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Source:  OpenStax, A study of how a region can lever participation in a global network to accelerate the development of a sustainable technology cluster. OpenStax CNX. Apr 19, 2012 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11417/1.2
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