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Tech in Wales: The June 2018 roundup

June not only saw the launch of two new funding initiatives for Welsh technology firms and entrepreneurs, but exciting progress for Cardiff University’s planned innovation campus, an investment win for a fast-growing cloud business and the opening of a training academy from GoCompare.

Here’s what happened in the Welsh technology industry last month.

£3.5m data initiative unveiled

Organisations can now apply to take part in a £3.5m project to help them utilise data science research and analytics to develop innovative products.

Called the the Data Innovation Accelerator, it’s being funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Welsh Government and managed by Cardiff University.

With it, participants can draw upon the data science and analytics knowledge of Cardiff University researchers to launch ambitious growth plans. The fund is aimed at firms in areas such as ICT, cybersecurity, advanced materials, energy and eco-innovation.

Economy Secretary Ken Skates said: “I am proud that the Welsh Government is supporting this exciting Data Innovation Accelerator which will bridge the link between research and business so that companies on the ground can benefit from some of the innovative and groundbreaking research undertaken in Wales.

“The project is very much in line with our  Economic Action Plan, which sets out a clear whole Government approach to supercharging the hi-tech businesses of the future.”

£20m investment fund launched

Along with a dedicated data fund, the Development Bank of Wales and Welsh Government have launched a £20m investment fund for technology firms and entrepreneurs.

First established in 2014, the Wales Technology Seed Fund provides investment rounds of up to £250,000 to early-stage technology firms located in Wales.

Over the years, it’s offered funding to 41 small and medium-sized businesses, which has resulted in the creation of an estimated 570 jobs.

Skates said the funding will allow the Welsh tech industry to continue growing. “I am proud to have established the Development Bank of Wales which in parallel with Business Wales is providing businesses with the support they need,” he commented.

“The Development Bank is ensuring that this latest commitment of over £200m of Welsh Government funding is being used to drive investments that will grow our economy both today and into the future.

“The technology sector is increasingly important to our wider economy and I am committed to providing tech businesses in Wales with the backing they need to start-up, prosper and grow. The Development Bank’s new £20m Wales Technology Seed Fund is an important part of that support.”

Giles Thorley, chief executive of the Development Bank of Wales, added: “The new £20m Wales Technology Seed Fund is three times the size of the previous fund with up to £250,000 now available support the growth of developing technology businesses across Wales. This is exactly what early-stage technology businesses in Wales need.”

Cloud firm raises £3m

June was also a big month for DevOpsGuys, which has rebranded to DevOpsGroup to reflect the growing diversity within the business.

The Cardiff-based firm, which provides DevOps engineering, consultancy and training, has also secured £3m of investment from the Business Growth Fund, appointed a new board and acquired Agile Snap to further its education offering.

Adam Hale, who has spent 30 years working in the technology industry, joins the firm as chairman. Meanwhile, Meanwhile, Coco Brown, Paul Heywood, James Henderson and Alex Garfitt form the rest of the board.

James Smith, CEO of DevOpsGroup, said: “When Steve Thair and I started this company in 2013, we were two technologists from Development and Operations – with a belief that we could make a real difference to the way companies delivered IT services.

“We want our brand to truly reflect our passion to be an inclusive company and embody our bold desire to scale. Our new name is reflective of who we are today, but one thing remains unchanged which is our passion for enabling IT transformation at the speed of disruption.”

“I see this as the end of the beginning for DevOpsGroup. It has been a great five years and we are now setting it up for the path to global leadership. Certainly, getting external investment is part of that.”

New innovation centre for Cardiff

Cardiff University has made progress with plans to build an innovation campus that’ll result in 60 new jobs, apprenticeships and placements for the Welsh capital.

In the past month, the university has signed a contract with construction firm Bbouygues Limited to turn a disused rail yard into a technology hub for students, academics and entrepreneurs.

The campus – which has received £17m from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, £13m from the Welsh European Funding Office and £12m from the Welsh Government – will help researchers, students and companies develop technology products.

Set to be located at Maindy Park, it will consist of a social science research park and an innovation centre built especially for creative startups and technologists.

Professor Colin Riordan, president and vice-chancellor of Cardiff University, said: “Cardiff Innovation Campus is right at the heart of our long-term commitment to building social and economic prosperity in Wales for the benefit of all.

“We are delighted to be working with Bouygues UK to create a ‘Home of Innovation’ that unlocks the power of research. CIC will create jobs, act as a crucible for ideas, and allow future generations of students with great ideas to find new ways of tackling pressing global problems.”

GoCompare launches new academy

Fintech giant CoCompare has opened a specialist academy in a bid to train the next generation of technologists and eradicate the STEM skills shortage.

Unveiled at the 2018 Digital Festival in Cardiff, the GoFurther Academy offers sponsored degrees, paid internships and educational partnerships.

As part of the scheme, the company is working with Aston University to fund a technology degree apprenticeship, which combines paid training and practical work experience. It’s working on partnerships with local universities, too.

GoGompare is also going to offer work experience placements to Welsh school pupils, and it’s creating new training initiatives for existing staff.

Lee Griffin, founder and president GoCompare, said: “I couldn’t be happier to announce the launch of the GoFurther Academy and believe our significant investment will have long-term benefits for talent development, the economy and the growing tech community in South Wales.

“GoCompare is one of the UK’s most recognised and trusted Fintech brands, the launch of the GoFurther Academy is our commitment to helping grow our industry in South Wales, develop the very best talent in the country and create innovative services to help people everywhere save time and money.”

“Over the following months, our hope is to expand our partnerships with colleges, schools and universities in South Wales to give opportunities to local talent, while continuing to invest in the great team we already have at GoCompare.”