Tech in Wales: The May 2016 roundup

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Nicholas Fearn, editor at Tech Dragons, dissects the latest Welsh tech news.

Continuing a string of successful months for tech in Wales, May also proved to be a prosperous and exciting time for the Welsh technology industry.

There were a number of key announcements and milestones, including the launch of a piece of life-saving wearable tech and an organisation aimed solely at growing innovation in Wales.

Here’s our round-up.

Wearable for firefighters

It’s always great to see companies unveiling new, innovative technology, and that’s exactly what two tech firms from North Wales did last month.

Flintshire-based Taylor Dowding Innovation (TDI) and Design Reality teamed up to develop a wearable thermal imaging display system for firefighters.

Currently, firefighters rely on handheld thermal imaging cameras to navigate through smoke-filled environments, but that’s all set to change with this new wearable.

Called the Scott Sight TIM (Thermal In Mask), the wearable is a lightweight camera and micro-display built directly into a firefighter’s respirator mask.

Ben Dowding, who worked on the project, said: “This technology is the culmination of a challenging and exciting period for us.

“The initial brief was daunting to say the least, creating an innovative solution that could be relied upon in the most hostile environments, but we were confident it could be done.”

“Every aspect of how this product would be used had to be considered. Ensuring that firefighters have real-time footage available at a glance, while keeping their hands free required a totally new approach.”

Innovation Point launches

May also saw the launch of Innovation Point, a new company that seeks to grow the Welsh tech industry by identifying worldwide technological trends and bringing them to Wales.

The organisation is based in the Welsh city of Newport and aims to strengthen Wales’s position on the global technology stage. A year in the planning, it’s a partnership between the Welsh Government and private sector.

ESTNet, which is a network of Welsh tech businesses and professionals, said the Welsh tech sector is growing at a rapid rate and could be worth as much as £8.2bn to the Welsh economy.

David Warrender, chief executive of Innovation Point, said: “We’re not short of good ideas in Wales, but where we need to be much better is in making them happen at scale.

“Our economic future and place in the global economy really does depend on exploiting fully the power of the imagination. Innovation Point exists to answer a real need from tech entrepreneurs who tell us that they find access to funding and partners difficult.”

Entrepreneur Wales Awards

The popular Entrepreneur Wales Awards returned for another year and began its search for the most enterprising individuals in Wales.

Set up and run by the founders of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, the awards aim to recognise the great things being achieved by Welsh entrepreneurs and businesses.

There are a number of categories, including technology, social enterprise, fashion, food and drink, retail and manufacturing. There’s also a new category for student entrepreneur of the year.

Alex Popham, former Welsh rugby international and co-founder of the Entrepreneur Wales Awards, said: “The first Entrepreneur Wales Awards in 2015 was a fantastic celebration of the fantastic businesses and entrepreneurs Wales has to offer.

“But we are going to celebrate even more inspiring stories this year. Wales is really making a name for itself in business and entrepreneurship, and we have no doubt that the entries will give plenty of optimism for the future.”

An honour from Google

Livetech, a North Wales-based company specialising in website and app design, received a rare and respected honour from Google last month.

It became one of 5,000 official Google partners worldwide, and is the only firm in Conwy, Gwynedd, Anglesey and Denbighshire to claim the status.

The company qualified for this award by demonstrating excellent customer service and support, and its managing director Paul Levy had to sit a series of complex exams.

He said: “We’re really thrilled to be awarded the Google Partner status, it is a fantastic honour to have this official endorsement from Google which will help us really stand out from the crowd.

“There are only 5,000 Full Google Partners in the whole world with three billion web users – that means Livetech are literally almost one in a million!

“There are a whole host of companies out there offering these services, but there are very few companies that have a proper business focused approach to get the results for people and return on investment and that’s what it’s all about with Google really.”

Celebration of startup success

Caerphilly-based innovation centre Welsh ICE helped launch 10 brand new startups through its startup bootcamp course, 9-to-5.

The 9 to 5 Club is a free evening course for people who have small businesses or who have ideas they want to make a reality. It runs weekly at ICE.

It provides specialist mentors, workshops and industry experts who can offer top advice covering areas such as marketing, project development and finance.

Gareth Jones, CEO of Welsh ICE, said: “After two successful cohorts, we are excited to be launching our third 5 to 9 Club. There are so many great business ideas out there waiting to be launched and it’s wonderful that Welsh ICE and the Fairwood Trust can support their inception and development.”