Tech in Wales: The February 2016 roundup

Welsh flag

The start of the year is always a busy period for the worldwide tech industry, with the CES taking place in January and MWC in February.

But what about technology in Wales? A small nation with sheep outnumbering its population of just three million people, you wouldn’t assume it’s home to a growing tech scene. Well, it is, and according to Tech City UK, it’s one of the fastest growing in the UK.

February has been an exciting time for Wales’ tech sector. From Swansea announcing a city bid focused on technology to launch of Wales’ first ever tech startup accelerator, there’s a lot of exciting gossip from the last month. Here’s our round-up.

Swansea makes city bid focusing on tech

Towards the end of February, the Swansea Bay City Region submitted a £500m city deal to the UK and Welsh governments. What’s exciting about it is the focus it places on technology, particularly infrastructure.

Dubbed the ‘Internet Coast’ deal, its aim is to put digital at the forefront of South West Wales’ energy, technology and healthcare industries. If it goes ahead, it could create around 39,000 technology-oriented jobs, 3.3 billion of output and £1.3bn of gross value for Wales.

There are also plans to bring a fibre-optic cable running from New York to Swansea’s Oxwich Bay so the region can benefit from ultrafast broadband. Telco billionaire Sir Terry Matthews, who heads the city region board, said it’s important for people to recognise that the main transmission communication channel from New York to London is via south-west Wales.

Newport-based tech incubator teams up with ONS

February also saw Newport-based Alacrity, a tech incubator aimed at mentoring Wales’s brightest technology graduates, forge a partnership with the Office of National Statistics. It’ll see ONS benefiting from Alacrity’s talent pool.

Matthew Hancock, the minister for the Cabinet Office, paid a visit to South Wales last month to unveil the partnership. He spent time with Alacrity graduates, talking about their successes and also visited the ONS headquarters in Newport.

He said: “The potential to revolutionise and build organisations through high quality digital skills should not be underestimated, and businesses such as Alacrity are changing the digital landscape of Wales through training and developing skills.”

Wales’ first tech accelerator launches

In another exciting development for Wales, the country’s first ever tech accelerator launched. The programme, named IdeasFund, is aimed at finding and nurturing the best technological talent in Wales.

Founded by Matt Warren and Paul Harwood of TechHub Swansea, it’ll give promising entrepreneurs the chance to secure long-term investment and work with brands such as Just Eat, Google and New Look.

It’s being jointly funded by co-working space TechHub Swansea and the Welsh Government, and will offer successful applicants up to £10,000 in funding so they can build their businesses. They’ll also receive two months of mentoring.

Matt Warren, co-founder of TechHub Swansea, said: “As a tech entrepreneur myself I know that getting a start-up off the ground can be a struggle, but the unique programme ideas.fund will offer entrepreneurs a real chance to show how their business could generate value in a busy tech market.”

Economy Minister Edwina Hart added: “The ideas.fund programme will provide a platform where start-ups and entrepreneurs can focus wholly on honing their business plans while gaining valuable skills from a solid support team around them.”

Capgemini opens new centre in Rhondda

Capgemini, which is one of the world’s largest providers of technology and outsourcing services, opened a new centre in Rhondda and announced it’d be creating more than 100 new roles at the firm.

The state-of-the-art premises will also host 40 apprentices over the next three years, who’ll be trained on the firm’s higher apprenticeship scheme. As well as this, the new office has been tailored so that employees can deliver projects using the agile method and will also encourage collaborative, flexible working.

First Minister Carwyn Jones was at the launch of the centre. Speaking at the opening, he said: “Wales is now recognised as a leading UK technology centre with global blue chip companies, world class academic research, innovative SMEs and a vibrant startup scene.

“The Welsh Government is committed to supporting the growth of the sector and we have supported a number of new investment projects since 2010 including CGI (620 jobs), Alert Logic (126 jobs), General Dynamics (544 jobs) and more recently Capgemini. I am delighted that Capgemini is expanding its operations and making a significant investment in Wales.”

Caerphilly innovation centre contributes millions to Welsh economy

An independent report published in February found that Welsh ICE, a Caerphilly-based centre for startups and innovation, has contributed £13.8m to the Welsh economy since launching in 2012.

It also found the incubator is helping to sustain a growing start-up scene in south-east Wales and there’s an added value being delivered by ICE in the form of subsidised support places.

What’s more, if the net GVA continues for three more years, Welsh ICE will go on to achieve even more success. It’s estimated it could generate an estimated cumulative net GVA benefit of £36.3m.

The findings were announced by Gareth Jones, CEO of Welsh ICE, at an event held at the Senedd last month. He said: “The community at ICE is incredibly inspiring, and we are proud to have shown that small amounts of investment combined with the right strategy can have a huge impact for fledgling entrepreneurs.”

Overall, February was an exciting and prosperous month for the Welsh technology sector. These milestones just prove that Wales is punching above its weight when it comes to tech, and we will profile its successes in Tech City News’ Tech in Wales column on a monthly basis. Here’s to an exciting 2016!

Written by Nicholas Fearn, editor of Tech Dragons.