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Tech in Wales: The December 2016 roundup

Nicholas Fearn, editor at Tech Dragons, brings you the latest news to emerge from Wales’ burgeoning tech scene.

There’s no doubt that, by now, you’re back in the swing of work and normal everyday life after the Christmas holidays. 2016 seemed to fly by, and it was certainly a year of prosperity and growth for the Welsh technology industry.

December can sometimes be a quiet month for tech news, with major conferences such as CES and MWC taking place pretty much straight after, but there were a number of key developments in Wales throughout the last month of 2016.

Here’s our latest Welsh tech roundup.

Top award for Welsh tech firm

It’s always great to see companies being awarded for their hard work and this was certainly the case for Welsh tech startup Talkative in December.

The firm, which creates software to help companies communicate more effectively, was named the most innovative technology at the Britannic Convergence Summit. It beat the likes of Mitel, Microsoft and Avaya.

Held in Manchester at the start of December, it brought together a wide range of delegates working in the British technology and communications industries.

Talkative is based in Cardiff and creates a range of telephony products aimed at business users, including a real-time analytics platform for text-chat, voice, video and co-browsing interactions.

Felix Winstone, who leads business development at the company, said: “The award is great validation of the product concept, especially from the voters in the IT and Customer Contact industries.

“The technical team has put a lot of work into the product, so it is good they are getting the recognition they deserve. Our company provides the software service to companies in the retail, travel and financial services sectors,” he continued.

Pitch@Palace hits the road

Bootcamps provide entrepreneurs and startups with an amazing opportunity to develop new ideas and accelerate growth, so it’s no wonder that there was a lot of optimism when it was announced that Pitch@Palace would be coming to Wales.

The prestigious bootcamp-style event, which was set up by the Duke of York to help kickstart bright technology businesses, will come to Cardiff on February 2017. It’ll give aspiring Welsh entrepreneurs and firms a chance to pitch in front of Prince Andrew.

Guests at the event will hear from around 20 Welsh startups and entrepreneurs, and it’ll take place at Cardiff’s Tramshed Tech co-working space. Firms will be vying for a place in the Pitch@Palace final in London.

Neil Cocker, co-founder of tech startup community Cardiff Start, said: “Cardiff Start is really committed to doing all it can to provide opportunities for all startups in the Cardiff city region.

“We’ve been talking to the Duke Of York’s team for a while now, and we’re incredibly pleased to be able to bring such a prestigious event to the city, which will no doubt highlight the great innovation of many local startups.”

Robert Lo Bue, managing director of Applingua and co-founder of Cardiff Start, added: “The community that has built around Cardiff Start is really special. We run free events throughout the year, and run a Facebook group of over 2,000 members.

“The knowledge and support that is shared is phenomenal. And it’s all run by volunteers who are totally passionate about the future of Wales as a home of real innovation.”

Manufacturer unveils pioneering tech

Gcell, a company that manufactures iBeacon hardware and other connected technology, announced that it’s developing a pioneering new IoT sensor node with the support of a leading university.

The Cardiff-based tech firm formed a partnership with Professor Marcel Meli and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences Institute of Embedded Systems (ZHAW) to develop this device.

They’re building a new type of wireless node that harvests energy to provide long-range capabilities for the LoRa protocol. According to the company, it can be used to promote standardisation of low power wide area network (LPWAN).

These technologies form a crucial part of the Internet of Things industry, which is already valued in the billions globally. Tech pundits believe that it’ll be worth hundreds of billions within the next few years.

Barry Jenkins, a director at GCell, said: “Cisco forecast that there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020. Even if only 10 per cent of those are battery powered, it still means a huge number of batteries being replaced in future years.

“With the development of this energy harvesting LoRa sensor node, GCell reaffirms its commitment giving users the freedom to disconnect from mains power and not be restricted by the limitations of batteries.

“Not only is this solution better for the environment, but it also reduces to total cost of ownership of an IoT solution. The first deployment of the GCell powered LoRa sensor nodes are planned for trial in early 2017.”

Incubator relaunches accelerator scheme

There are a ton of co-working spaces in and around Wales, but Caerphilly-based Welsh ICE has become an integral part of the tech and startup ecosystem in the country and it’s just relaunched its pre-start accelerator programme.

The scheme, which is backed by the Welsh Government and partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund, was a big success in 2015 with some 12 promising businesses taking part and now preparing to launch.

It aims to contribute more than £40m and 200 jobs to the Welsh economy over the next few years. Participating businesses, which have demonstrated high-growth potential, are provided with 12 weeks of support including mentorship and workshops.

Gemma Hallett is one of the entrepreneurs to benefit from the programme. She founded MiFuture, a career-matching mobile app for school leavers.

She said: “Starting a business can be very daunting, especially when you set yourself such ambitious targets. However, the programme provided me with the support I needed to get miFuture off the ground; introducing me to the experts I needed, when I needed them.

“Be that developers, business planners or finance experts; once I needed specific support, I was introduced to the appropriate person,” she concluded.

National tech awards relaunched

Organisers of the flagship awards event for Wales’s growing technology industry announced in December that it’d be returning in 2017 for its fifth year.

Run by Welsh tech business network ESTnet, the Wales Technology Awards will return to the Wales Millennium Centre on June 22nd and recognise the achievements of Welsh tech companies.

The awards, which are supported by some of the industry’s most powerful companies and experts, aims to shine a spotlight on a tech businesses of all sizes and the entrepreneurs behind them.

Avril Lewis, managing director of the ESTnet, said: “The Technology Awards stand to champion the outstanding achievements made by the sector’s 3,110 businesses and 39,000 people, who are working tirelessly to make Wales a world leader for technology.

“Here in Wales, we design, develop, manufacture and integrate some of the world’s most advanced enabling technologies. As the network for this dynamic sector, we know that over 70% of the companies we represent are actively working to expand their personnel.

“Our role is to support these pioneering companies by enabling them to build their reputations and networks, develop programmes that facilitate their efforts to grow the skilled workforces that are essential for their future growth, and inspire those outside of our sector and Wales to realise the potential that our country has to offer,” concluded the managing director.

If you’d like to check out more news about the Welsh tech scene, click here