Tech in Wales: The July 2018 roundup


From the opening of a multi-million-pound life sciences hub to a pitch event hosted by royalty, here’s what happened in Wales’s booming tech industry in the month of July.

Caerphilly gets £14m life sciences hub

Life sciences giant BBI Group has ploughed £14m into a Caerphilly-based headquarters as part of continuing expansion plans.

Last month, Economy Secretary Ken Skates travelled to the town to open the facility. It’s been supported by a £1.8m investment deal from the Welsh Government.

BBI Group is moving its manufacturing and development departments from sites in Blaenavon, Cardiff and Dundee to Caerphilly. Over the next few years, it’ll save and create 360 jobs.

“As a highly successful company with a turnover of more than £60m and a strategically important player in the global life science sector, BBI Group is already a made-in-Wales success story,” said the minister.

“I am delighted that Welsh Government support has enabled the company to establish its global headquarters here and centralise its manufacturing and development activities in Crumlin, bringing new and high-quality job opportunities to the South Wales Valleys.”

Alan Peterson, chairman of the BBI Group, said: “The opening of our new Global Headquarters is a significant step towards realising our strategic long-term growth plans. It gives us the opportunity to compete more effectively in our key markets in Europe, USA and China.”

Welsh tech meets royalty

Some 17 technology entrepreneurs travelled to Wrexham in North Wales to pitch their ideas to the Duke of York and an audience of business experts.

The Welsh leg of the Pitch@Palace On Tour event took place on July 11th at Wrexham Enterprise Hub. Founded by Prince Andrew in 2014, the event connects entrepreneurs with potential investors and supporters.

There were three winners, including first aid training company Four Minutes, high-street retail app NearMeNow and digital mental health platform Psycapps.

Victoria Mann, founder and CEO of Caerphilly-based NearMeNow, said: “We’re thrilled to be recognised as one of the top three among such a high calibre group of businesses and are delighted to be flying the Welsh flag when we take our proposition to London.

“Through Pitch@Palace, we were able to ask for introductions to high-profile, high-street influencers who can endorse the app, help increase our end-user engagement and reach potential investors who share our passion for supporting local.”

Opening the event, The Duke of York said: “The purpose of Pitch@Palace is to help entrepreneurs grow and learn under pressure and move their business along.

“For Pitch, it’s important to travel the country to figure out where and what the entrepreneurial attitudes are. But we’re also looking for mentors, advisors and connections for these businesses; it’s the connections that have made the biggest difference for our entrepreneurs.”

World’s first semiconductor cluster opens

July saw the launch of the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster in Wales, bringing together technology firms and academics.

Called CSconnected, the cluster is comprised of organisations that are researching, developing, innovating and manufacturing semiconductor technologies.

Supporters include Cardiff University, Swansea University, Compound Semiconductor Centre, the CSA Catapult, IQE PLC, Newport Wafer Fab, SPTS and Microsemi. The cluster is aiming to create 2000 jobs over the coming years.

Sam Evans, a Newport Wafer Fab director, said: “The post-conference feedback has been excellent. The CS Cluster concept is a compelling one, bringing together a unique collection of specialist organisations.

Speaking previously, Carwyn Jones – the first minister of Wales – said the project is a major coup for South East Wales and said it’ll generate thousands of high-quality jobs for the country.

“I am delighted our initial £12m investment has kick-started the creation of the world’s first compound semiconductor industry cluster in Newport,” he commented.

“Our support for the Institute for Compound Semiconductor Technology has been widely recognised as the catalyst for developing this world-leading cluster, which is expected to create more than 2,000 well-paid jobs and be the cornerstone of a truly transformative project for the area.”

AI startup gets backing of tech giant

We Build Bots, an artificial intelligence startup based in Cardiff, was accepted onto the prestigious Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator.

The programme, which is led by the research and development team at Oracle, provides early-stage tech firms with mentorship, co-working space and access to investors. We Build Bots has joined six other companies.

Founded in April 2016, We Build Bots creates AI tools for customer service departments, events, charities, utility providers, publishers and sports clubs.

Paul Shepherd, founder and CEO of We Build Bots, said: “Being selected for the programme means the world to us, and we can’t wait to get started.”

Reggie Bradford, senior vice president of start-up ecosystem and accelerator at Oracle, added: “The startups in Bristol continue to raise the bar for global cloud innovation, and we are proud to welcome a select group of six to our second cohort.

“Following the success of our initial cohort in Bristol, we will continue to leverage our cloud expertise, leading cloud products, and global network to support their rapid growth.”

Amazon Academy is coming to Wales

Technology giant Amazon has teamed up Enterprise Nation and BeTheSpark to bring its Academy to Wales, supporting hundreds of Welsh entrepreneurs and small businesses.

The event will take place on September 11th at Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, and entrepreneurs can now apply to take part.

It’ll provide a range of free workshops, tips and insights about how to use e-commerce to grow their business, boost export sales and improve customer experience.

Baroness Fairhead CBE, minister of state for trade and export promotion, said: “Evidence shows that UK companies are succeeding globally following a growing demand for our goods and services, with UK exports reaching a record high of over six hundred billion in the year to March 2018.

“I’m delighted to Amazon working with DIT to help boost SME exports in Wales and help businesses of all sizes to seize the global opportunities on offer.

“This includes an increase in the export finance support on offer and the launch of new online tools to help companies match their products with potential new markets.”

Doug Gurr, UK country manager at Amazon, said: “We’re seeing record numbers of Welsh businesses sell their products to customers around the world, taking their business from local to global.

“Currently Welsh businesses employ more than 3,000 people to support their sales activities on Amazon and we’d like to see this grow. Through the Amazon Academy we want to help small businesses in Wales grow online to help build a stronger economy and create even more jobs in the region.”

IT consultancy launches academy

Cardiff-based IT consultancy DevOpsGroup has launched an academy to train the technology professionals of the future and help close the digital skills gap.

The company offers a range of graduate schemes, internships, summer placements, educational collaborations and public courses.

James Harvey, head of the DevOpsGroup Academy, commented: “DevOpsGroup has always been driven by a passion for enabling IT transformation at the speed of disruption,” said James Harvey, head of the DevOpsGroup Academy.

“DevOpsGroup has run a fantastic, forward-thinking internship scheme since 2015, which we plan to take to the next level with the DevOpsGroup Academy.

“We will build on the fine work that’s been done to date in developing technology talent in South Wales and accelerating Cardiff’s tech ecosystem.”