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One to watch: Wales is fostering a thriving tech community

Wales Cardiff

Forget London, Wales is becoming a magnet for digital tech talent with an explosion of startups creating hundreds of tech jobs in Cardiff and Swansea, argues Rowan Chernin of marketing agency Found.

Greater investment, better education, an attractive lifestyle and improved infrastructure have all helped attract more techies outside of London and put Wales on the digital map.

Coal and steel have been ousted as the main industries of Wales with the rise in digital startups and increasing numbers of IT Jobs on offer. There are 17,471 digital/tech jobs in Cardiff and Swansea alone, with 103 startup births per year and an average digital spend of £43,459, according to a recent Tech City UK report.

Greater investment in the country coupled with its location and cheaper living costs than London have led to more businesses basing themselves across the border. The booming digital tech sector in Wales has helped the UK as a whole to become the digital capital of Europe with £28bn investment over the past five years across the whole of the country.

Thriving universities

Some of the growth in Wales’ tech industry can be attributed to its universities. The country is home to four major universities – Cardiff University, the University of South Wales, Cardiff Metropolitan University and Swansea University – all of which have strong IT courses.

Cardiff University’s BSc in computer science typically has 120 places, but receives more than 1,000 applications each year, supplying a steady stream of graduates to the regional tech sector.

Future investment

Wales has also seen heavy investment in the tech sector which has helped boost its prominence within the UK.

Last year, the government announced a £10m investment until 2020/21 in Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult – the CSA Catapult, based in South Wales, is part of the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster. It aims to help UK companies grow using semiconductor technologies by bridging the gap between those developing such technologies and those developing end-user applications.

In addition, there are plans to develop Swansea into a digital super hub. The £1.3bn investment into Swansea Bay City Region will include the creation of a digital infrastructure that turns it into an international gateway for new digital applications.

Attractive lifestyle

For tech graduates looking to settle outside of London, Cardiff and Swansea rank very highly for their vibrant lifestyle and low cost of living. The average price for a terraced house in Cardiff is £194,336. This compares very favourably to London where terraced houses sold last year for an average of £649,613. Rents are more than 60% lower in Cardiff than London and people living in Cardiff have consistently rated themselves as happier and more satisfied with life than those living in London for the last five years, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Wales is also home to some great sporting teams and a magnet for rugby fans. The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff has played host to many international matches whilst Swansea City Football Club is the first Welsh club to play in the Premier League.

On top of this, the redevelopment of Cardiff Bay has led to an influx of shops, attractions, restaurants and bars, plus the city enjoys a thriving music scene and vibrant nightlife.

Swansea and Cardiff are ideally located for any digital job hunter who needs to make regular trips back to London or go abroad. Trains to the capital take around two hours while Cardiff Airport flies to more than 50 cities direct.

In addition, the two cities are perfectly placed to explore the rest of Wales – Barry Island is just a stone’s throw away and the Brecon Beacons and picturesque Monmouthshire are just an hour’s drive.

Growing tech opportunities

There are plenty of opportunities for software engineers, IT project managers, programmers and developers in Wales with increasing numbers of IT jobs available. Earlier this year, Cardiff-based FinTech startup Delio announced plans to create 30 jobs after receiving £200,000 from the Welsh government, and hybrid aircraft maker Faradair has revealed plans to open a research and development centre at Swansea University.

In June, Cardiff-based property technology startup Properr closed an £850,000 round of funding to help it develop new platforms for the way people buy homes. Wales also celebrated its digital successes at the ESTnet Wales Technology Awards.

ESTnet managing director Avril Lewis said at the awards: “Wales is a small, agile and dynamic country, which punches well above its weight when it comes to developing the enabling technologies that advance the way we all work and live.

“The importance of the Welsh technology sector cannot be overstated. We are nation of innovators and enablers, the applications of the technology we create are far-reaching and pervasive.”