Research and development during a global pandemic

KESS 2 recently asked participants how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted on their respective research projects. Postgraduate researcher Simon Johns, and his company partner Gwylan, share their experiences of continuing their KESS 2 funded R&D during these trying times.

The Student Perspective:
Simon Johns, Cardiff University

I’m studying an MPhil; it’s an evaluation of a digital resource [for high school children] to be incorporated into the school day. The curriculum in Wales is changing, some say quite radically, and it definitely has more of an emphasis on health and wellbeing. The resource we produced with the company Gwylan looks at aiding adolescents during this transitional period of their lives.

I started my studies back in April, which seems like a long time ago now. I remember catching the train home from Cardiff University with lots of different forms to start filling in. This was just before lockdown, and since then I’ve not returned to Cardiff. All my research [to date] has been remote. I’ve accessed online libraries, I’ve conducted all my interviews and reports online and I’ve made a little office space for myself in the comfort of my own home, which I’m sure many of us have done. Something I’ve had to learn is separating work from that home environment, especially for my own wellbeing.

Some of the hindrances that Covid [lockdown] has created in my life since starting this research is communication, that is, direct communication with peers with supervisors. Email is great, you do get a response, but it’s not an immediate response. So those little questions that you just want to know the answer to quickly have been more difficult to get. Library resources you can access online, however, I think there’s something quite rustic and authentic about actually walking into a library and finding what you need.

It hasn’t all been negative, there have been some positive effects of Covid [lockdown]. For example, in the morning, it’s given me a bit of space just to centre myself and take all the things I have to do for the rest of the day off my shoulders and placing them in front of me so I’m able to do one thing at a time. The KESS 2 team have been quite supportive over the last few months. Since starting my research they’ve offered me lots of online opportunities for training.

I like the idea behind KESS 2 supporting local people in Wales to develop in different areas, but I also like the idea of empowering younger people to stay in Wales to progress Wales as a nation.

The Company Perspective:
John Likeman, CEO of Gwylan

We’re a little Welsh company based in Pembrokeshire and one of the key things that we do is research and we provide new solutions for things. So, when we started to find out about KESS 2, we were really intrigued. We thought, that sounds really good because that’s something which we felt could add something to what the company offers. Since having a KESS 2 student, it’s really opened us up to partnerships with not just Bangor University and Cardiff University but universities across Wales and beyond.

There have definitely been economic benefits through KESS 2. We can see that happening now; that we can get a much more refined research and much more of a developed product as a result of the KESS 2 involvement and the research aspect of that. So, is it going to impact on our turnover in a positive way? Most definitely, yes.