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Tech in Wales: September 2016 roundup

Wales

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

The summer proved to be a period of growth and prosperity for Wales’s technology industry, and this continued into September.

There were a ton of notable happenings last month, including the launch of a scheme to get more adults into digital jobs and new funding opportunities from innovation centre Welsh ICE.

Welsh techies descend on London

September was a big month for a group of fast-growing Welsh tech startups. They’re embarking on a trade mission to London in a bid to raise investment.

The small group includes an app that aims to save lives by supporting doctors and nurses, a website translation service and a high-growth fintech company.

They’re just a handful of Welsh tech innovators looking to make their mark on London by bidding for investment and support at the Digital Catapult Centre on October 13th.

Innovation Point, the company that wants to bring cutting-edge tech opportunities to Wales, is organising this trip. It wants to stimulate the growth of these firms.

Companies include Amplyfi, Delio, DevOpsGuys, Echosec, Elidir Health, Interceptor Solutions and Learnium, all of which are putting Welsh tech on the map.

David Warrender, chief executive of Innovation Point, said: “Tech entrepreneurs tell us that they find access to funding and identifying partners difficult.

“Innovation Point is addressing this issue by supporting the best and brightest technology businesses and creating connections with the individuals and businesses who can nurture the game-changing technology coming out of Wales.

“The businesses joining us in London to pitch for investment are shining examples of the kind of disruptive, groundbreaking ideas Wales has to offer and we’re confident the event will be a rewarding one.”

Boost Cymru finalists announced

September also proved to be a big month for the Welsh life sciences sector. A number of innovative science projects were put through to the finals of the Boost Cymru competition.

Finalists include an environmentally friendly bio-pesticide, collagen harvested from jellyfish, and an app to help sufferers of lung disease.

The competition is being run by Cardiff-based Life Sciences Hub Wales, an organisation that promotes and supports Welsh life science companies and projects.

Boost Cymru aims to encourage new ideas, products or services from Welsh businesses, organisations and individuals that have market potential.

The winning project will be announced at a ceremony in the Park Plaza Hotel in Cardiff on October 6th and will receive a prize fund worth £50,000.

Dr Ian Barwick, chief operating officer of the Life Sciences Hub, said: “Boost Cymru has already proved to be a huge success, attracting a high calibre of entrants from across Wales and demonstrating the strength and vibrancy of our fast-growing life sciences sector.

“We hope the expert mentoring and support all entrants received will have been invaluable to their business, whether or not they go on to win.

“We look forward to seeing who is ultimately crowned the first ever Boost Cymru winner in October.”

New digital employment scheme launches

Aims to close the growing digital skills gap in Wales continued in September, with the launch of a new program to get adults equipped with the latest tech knowledge.

Codez Academy, which is based in Penarth, launched a scheme to help adults secure work in the digital world. It’s thought that 2 million high-paying jobs will emerge from the UK tech sector within the next five years.

From October onwards, it’ll be running a three-month evening course for individuals at its base in co-working space Tec Marina. They will learn a variety of digital and coding skills, improving their employability prospects and overall digital capabilities.

Dean Jenkins, managing director of the firm, said he wants to help people get into high-growth tech jobs by improving their digital skills and to aid the growth of Wales’s flourishing tech industry.

“We are working to give our students the digital skills required to be able to reach these high-flying roles and ultimately grow the digital sector in Wales. In 2015 it was revealed that only 62% of adults have the five basic digital skills and are working to change that, one student at a time,” he said.

“Coding has become an essential qualification in an increasingly digital world and is now considered almost as important as traditional core subjects by employers. This course will provide a step-by-step guide to help students prepare for a new career or simply to develop in their current one.”

Welsh ICE opens new round of funding

Caerphilly-based innovation centre Welsh ICE launched a new funding opportunity for vibrant startups and entrepreneurs based in Wales.

This follows a phenomenal response to the intake made in late 2015, when more than 60 business people were awarded with space and support at Welsh ICE

The organisation wants to see more startups launched in Wales by offering them capital. It’ll be delivered through the ICE 50 business scheme.

It’ll see 50 firms get a fully-funded startup package, including desk space, mentoring and high-speed internet access to help them grow even further.

Mandy Weston, COO at Welsh ICE, said: “The response to our previous round of applications was phenomenal – so much so that we couldn’t cap our places at 50.

“This year we hope to have a similar level of demand, especially since we recently announced our new space on campus, the Octagon.

“We want to reach out to those who have recently started a business and are finding that working from home is not all they thought it would be. There may be many people struggling to find work such as recent graduates, or those unsure about their future after a recent redundancy.”

Cardiff-based telco celebrates 13th year in business

Cardiff-based telecoms firm TWL Voice and Data celebrated its 13th year in business and launched a new cloud-based telephony product.

The company provides telephone products and other technology solutions to clients like JoJo Maman Bebe, Cardiff and Vale College, Cardiff Blues and the Port of Milford Haven.

Last year, the high-growth company posted a record turnover of £2.1 million, and it currently expects to make £2.6 million this year – an increase of 25 per cent.

It was founded in 2003 by managing director Andrew Nicholson, who had just been made redundant. On announcing the news, he said the company has come along way and he’s proud to be at its helm.

“I am incredibly proud of the last 13 years. We have developed a culture where we place customer service above everything else; client retention is vitally important to us,” he said.

“Turnover for 2015 was encouraging, and this year is another leap forward. We have implemented new systems to encourage organic growth by focussing on client services and retention, as well as new business processes.

“We have made two acquisitions in the past four years which has accelerated our growth; Danwood Telecoms in 2012 and JVH Communications last year. We are certainly interested in using the acquisition method to further increase our growth and revenue streams.”