Tech in Wales: The September 2018 roundup

September was another strong month for the Welsh technology industry.

From the announcement of a £100m tech investment fund for the South Wales Valleys and national recognition for a Cardiff-based FinTech company, here are the best Welsh tech stories from the past month.

Pupil coding numbers soaring

New figures from the Sony UK Technology Centre show that its educational initiatives have helped over 2,000 pupils learn coding skills.

The Pencoed-based electronics manufacturing facility, which produces the Raspberry Pi, saw 827 pupils take part in its Digital Competency Programme in 2015/2016. But this grew to 1,012 in 2016/2017 and 1,596 in the past year.

Supporting the IT curriculum in Wales, the programme promotes creativity and STEM learning through media and coding sessions.

Last year, Sony UK Tec launched an additional “Learn 2 Code” course. The firm is expecting the number of participants to increase to 2,032 by the end of 2018.

Gerald Kelly, director of professional services at Sony UK Tec, said: “With the increasing development of and dependence on technology in all industries, we need the innovators of the future to be equipped with the skills to match.

“Coding introduces the pupils to various programming languages including Scratch and Python, an invaluable language that is used universally in the technology industry.

“In this digitally driven age, it is fundamental that the next generation are able to recognise and utilise coding technology and use this not just for the betterment of their careers, but also to enhance the development of the Welsh economy.”

£100m pledged for tech developments

Over the next few years, the Welsh Government will invest £100m to fund emerging technologies across the South Wales Valleys.

Speaking last month, Economy Secretary Ken Skates revealed that the government is on a mission to turn Blaenau Gwent and the South Wales Valleys into a technology hotspot.

The project, called Tech Valleys, will aim to create 1500 sustainable jobs over the next decade. It’ll be led by the Tech Valleys Strategic Advisory Group, which is made up of partners from industry, public sector and academia.

Skates said: “The £100m that we are investing in Tech Valleys will drive high value jobs predominantly within new technologies and advanced manufacturing sector and help to make Blaenau Gwent and the wider South Wales Valleys a globally recognised centre for the development and delivery of emerging technologies.”

“The investment will also be used to drive and support entrepreneurial activity and to provide high-quality employment opportunities and skills development for people living locally.”

Tech celebrated at the Wales Startup Awards

Last month, a range of innovative and fast-growing technology companies were celebrated at the Wales Startup Awards in Cardiff.

Sponsored by the likes of Capital Law, IQE, DevOpsGroup and HSBC, the awards took place in contemporary events space the Depot and brought together hundreds of entrepreneurs.

Artificial intelligence firm We Build Bots was named Technology Startup of the Year, with finalists including Four Minutes, Credas, Sport Injury Fix and Hut Six Security.

Paul Shepherd, founder and CEO of We Build bots, said: “In a year, we’ve won the Sir Michael Moritz and Wales Start Up Awards, closed an investment round, grown from 3 to 16 people, been selected for Oracle’s Global Accelerator, and won clients across the globe.

“This Award is recognition of our rapid progress and will help us as we go into our Series A round to enable global growth with office openings in the USA and Asia.”

Web harvesting platform Amplyfi picked up the Innovation of the Year award. Shortlisted start-ups included Credas, Hut Six Security, Paperclip, Surple and Simply Do Ideas.

Video production firm Cinemerse was named Creative and Digital Start-up of the year. The finalists of this category were BabApp, Red Squirrel Marketing and Steelhouse Productions.

Professor Dylan Jones-Evans, organiser of the event, said:  “What we have seen over the last five years is a renaissance in creativity, innovation and enterprise that has been driven by an increasing number of entrepreneurial individuals that are pushing the boundaries in a range of emerging sectors across Wales.

“In many respects, the future prosperity of this nation is in their hands rather than, as we have seen in the past, large multinational businesses that are encouraged to relocate here.

“For the last three years, the Wales StartUp awards have demonstrated not only the local impact that these new ventures have but, more importantly, have showcased businesses that will have a global impact. And that, for a small nation such as Wales, is an incredible story.”

Delio named a FinTech company to watch

Private asset management platform Delio has been named one of the UK’s FinTech companies to watch by industry body Tech Nation.

The Cardiff-based company is now part of the Tech Nation FinTech cohort, which is a programme being delivered as part of the UK Government’s FinTech strategy.

Alongside nineteen other companies, Delio will attend a series of coaching sessions in London, London, Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh. The aim is to foster dialogue and develop business relationships.

Speaking about the scheme, Delio chief executive Gareth Lewis said: “We’re honoured to be amongst the 20 FinTech companies to watch, and thrilled about joining the Tech Nation programme.

“It’s been an exciting time for us as we continue to grow our team and expand into new geographies. This latest news gives us a further push and is recognition of all our team’s hard work to date.”

Greg Michel, FinTech lead at Tech Nation, said: “When we decided to focus the first edition of the Tech Nation FinTech programme on B2B and B2B2C, we expected strong applications from Wales and we weren’t disappointed.

“With FinTech companies increasingly looking at serving other businesses, large and small, and solving complex enterprise issues, Wales has a very good card to play in my mind.”

Innovation centre contributes £53m to Welsh economy

The Welsh Innovation Centre, which is based in Caerphilly, has injected £53m into the economy since it launched in 2012.

That’s according to new research from social and economic research company Wavehill, which explores the economic contribution made by Welsh ICE.

Wavehill found that for every £1 invested into a business based at the centre, there’s been a £22 benefit to the Welsh economy. It’s also created 360 full-time jobs.

Caerphilly County Borough Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member Cllr Sean Morgan said: “The findings of this report really do demonstrate the hugely significant impact that Welsh ICE continues to have upon the economy, both locally and Wales-wide.

“I’ve had the great pleasure of visiting the centre and some of the many businesses it supports on many occasions, and am always impressed by the level of innovation, support and passion that goes into encouraging entrepreneurship.

“We’re extremely proud that Welsh ICE has chosen to call Caerphilly county borough home, and I have no doubt that this success will continue for many years to come.”

Jamie McGowan, campus director at Welsh ICE, said:  “Simply put, the ICE model works and shows that if you build an environment that inspires community and gives startup businesses the right funding and support, they will thrive and create the jobs that have a wider economic benefit.

“Success through collaboration was the mission of ICE founders Anthony & William Record, Gareth Jones and Mandy Weston, and I am proud that we continue to build on that legacy.”