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Tech in Wales: The January 2017 roundup


Nic Fearn, editor at Tech Dragons, rounds up the most prominent news to emerge from the Welsh tech sector throughout the month of January. 

January was no doubt a hectic month. There were some exciting announcements made at CES 2017 in Las Vegas, and with MWC just around the corner, we’ll see some more cool innovation revealed in February.

The last few weeks have also been positive for the Welsh technology industry. From a huge investment win for a tech-savvy Cardiff University project to expansion plans for a promising Swansea-based startup – 2017 is proving to be another big year for Welsh tech so far.

Funding win for Cardiff Uni

Cardiff University was the recipient of £13m in EU funding to help develop its new semiconductor facility.

The news, which was announced by Welsh finance secretary Mark Drakeford, is a big win for the university. The money will be used to develop, equip and run a state-of-the-art cleanroom facility within the Institute for Compound Semiconductors (ICS).

Launched in December, the ICS is located at the Cardiff University Innovation Campus and aims to turn pioneering laboratory research into tech products and services.

Compound semiconductor technologies combine physical and chemical properties, and are critical in technology such as smartphones, tablets and satellite communications.

Mr Drakeford said: “Investing in world leading facilities so that academia and industry can collaborate and drive forward research in this sector will be an important boost to the Welsh economy,” he said.

“This EU funding will encourage high quality well-paid employment in the participating companies and the creation of spin-out companies, new startups as well as attracting innovative CS companies from across the UK and Europe, all adding to increased growth and prosperity in the region.”

Big growth for Swansea firm

Swansea-based Veeqo, an inventory management platform for retailers and online sellers, unveiled ambitious expansion plans for 2017 following a successful £1m crowdfunding campaign.

The company, which has created a software solution to help retailers streamline their everyday operations, plans to hire an additional 25 members of staff this year.

These new roles will cover a variety of areas, including engineering, sales, customer success and marketing and successful candidates will have the option to work in either Swansea or London.

The company, which currently has over 30 people on its payroll, was launched in 2013 by seasoned entrepreneur Matt Warren.

“2017 will be a year of accelerated growth for Veeqo. Following an extremely successful 2016, where we raised over £1.2m on the crowdfunding platform Seedrs, we’re now going to be expanding our team and making our software even more powerful,” he said.

“Our key resource at Veeqo is our people. Veeqo is built by people of all different backgrounds, with different skills, working at different locations all over the world.

“But the one thing we have in common is that we’re all dedicated to making Veeqo the best possible platform for ecommerce retailers to increase their sales and grow their business,” concluded the entrepreneur.

Digital skills scheme relaunched

January also saw the Welsh government reaffirm its commitment to getting more people to develop digital skills. The Digital Communities Wales Scheme was given a £2m boost.

Delivered by an organisation called the Wales Co-operative Centre, the scheme aims to provide technology training to people who are digitally excluded.

In the past, the programme has benefited disabled people, residents living in social housing, older generations and the unemployed. The aim is to improve their lives through tech.

According to research from Ofcom, an estimated 16% of Welsh people don’t use the internet, and there are concernes that they may be missing out on the benefits of tech.

Julie James, the minister for skills and science at the Welsh Government, said: “Digital Communities Wales has made good overall progress since it was established and is working effectively with organisations across Wales.

“There are still too many people who are not benefiting from the opportunities of digital technology, and our ambitious aim is to address digital exclusion by helping 95 per cent of people gain at least the basic digital skills needed for the 21st century by 2021.

““Digital Communities Wales will play an important role in contributing to this goal which is why I am pleased to confirm the extension of the programme for a further two years.

“The way the programme works with organisations at a local level to develop sustainable digital skills support initiatives, ensures it can reach those people most in need,” she added.

An online learning platform

Welsh ICE, an innovation centre and co-working space based in Caerphilly, launched a new online platform to help aspiring entrepreneur achieve their business dreams.

Boma Camp is an online service that provides the next generation of business owners with workshops, articles and a community forum around entrepreneurship and innovation.

The content and workshops are curated by experienced business owners and experts, who are passionate about inspiring more people to set up their own companies.

Welsh ICE CEO Gareth Jones said: “Our members are constantly collaborating and helping each other to grow their businesses, but we can only fit so many people into our buildings – we wanted to take that ethos and share it with all potential entrepreneurs.

“We hope that launching Boma Camp will allow us to connect more and more people in a way that helps them learn from a diverse and knowledgeable audience.”

Ambitious vision for Swansea

As the second largest city in Wales, Swansea is already home to a range of universities and co-working spaces. But it could set to get a so called shipping container ‘box village’.

At the beginning of January, plans were outlined to build an innovation complex made completely from old shipping containers. It’ll house a range of high-tech businesses.

The centre, despite only being an idea at this stage, forms a major part the University of Wales Trinity St David’s £300m innovation quarter.

Aimed at turning Swansea into a pioneering city of innovation, it’ll bring together tech businesses, academics, researchers and students.

Professor Medwin Hughes, vice chancellor at the university, said: “Box Village and the Innovation Precinct will enable us to further exploit knowledge and expertise to create new enterprise hubs and high skill accelerator schemes to grow new businesses linked to our portfolio.

“Through such activities, the university will create new opportunities for employment, helping to generate more footfall and spending in the city centre and to retain some of the brightest entrepreneurial talents from within the UWTSD Group in the region,” concluded Hughes.