From Coal to Cloud Computing. Why Wales Is a Thriving Tech Cluster.

Think of Wales. Think of Rugby, Singing, Coal Mining and a fantastic dress sense.

Oh, and a knack for great names. Did someone say llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch?

No? Ok!

The UK tech industry

The UK has enjoyed £6.8 billion investment from venture capitalists and private equity firms since 2016, which is more than double that of any other European country.

Britain is also home to more than 1.64 million technology professionals, eight of Europe’s most prestigious universities and thousands of innovative start-ups.

In 2016, 68% of UK technology investments were made in cities and regions outside of London.

Wales as an emerging tech cluster

A report from law firm Nockolds indicated that the Welsh technology industry is the fastest growing after London.

Just over two hours west of the capital – Cardiff and Swansea have become key drivers in building an impressive regional digital and technology industry.

A burgeoning digital tech cluster, fuelled by a robust infrastructure, excellent universities, competitive business rates and living costs.

Due to the cities comparable size, businesses in Cardiff and Swansea can test ideas quicker, cheaper and with less risk.

What’s helping make Wales a thriving tech cluster?

The proximity to the National Assembly in Cardiff Bay plays an active role in helping many Welsh digital businesses.

The Welsh Government’s support via Business Wales includes a digital development fund, specifically for technology companies.

Their ‘Superfast’ programme offers the connection to next-generation broadband to improve our technology infrastructure, with connectivity pan-Wales.

The Cardiff Capital Region City Deal plans to invest £1.28 billion into a world-class metro system, continuing to drive digital innovation across South East Wales.

Similarly, the Swansea Bay City Region’s deal aims to transform the region into a digital super-hub – with a £500 million investment, and ensuring the strengths of the local University.

The Development Bank of Wales plans to plough more than £1 billion of investment, to help support Welsh businesses.

What’s more, the success of Welsh businesses is being recognised in Whitehall. Our Tech Marina neighbour Richard Theo, co-founder and CEO of Wealthify, has been appointed as the government’s new fintech envoy for Wales.

Richard will be responsible for championing Wales’ thriving financial and digital tech sector, promoting it as a place that national firms will look at as an opportunity to develop and grow their businesses.

South Wales is becoming a destination of choice for Financial Technology (Fintech) outside London. We have a thriving tech and fintech ecosystem in Wales and it’s expanding rapidly with both traditional firms ramping up their investment in digital and startups emerging with exciting new ideas and technologies that will power or empower future financial services.

Richard Theo, Wealthify

Education, thinking to the future

Cardiff University’s National Software Academy is producing work-ready software graduates, and the Alacrity Foundation is nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Cardiff Metropolitan University has announced plans to develop a Cardiff School of Technologies in the capital city, offering courses in digital media, data science, and design technologies, and is expected to welcome its first enrolment of students in 2020.

A collaborative support network

One of the success factors of South Wales as a digital tech hub is the collaborative ethos fostered between entrepreneurs, businesses owners, investors and academics.

Organisations such as Cardiff Start, Innovation Point and BeTheSpark are offering support to tech startups. Collaborate office environments and co-working spaces like Tech Marina, Tech Hub, Welsh Ice, and Tramshed Tech are bringing the industry together while helping spread government and private investment across the country.

Networking events, business workshops, and industry-leading conferences – such as the recent Digital Festival – ensure the industries brightest minds and innovators are brought together in one place.

Recruitment aiding growth

With significant growth in digital and technology business, Wales’ positions itself as a region of innovation, with lots of high-growth Welsh tech firms continually creating new job opportunities.

For technology entrepreneurs and professionals, South Wales’ success as a tech cluster has meant impressive employment growth has brought further development to the region.

Tech City UK estimates that more than 17,400 people are currently working in the Welsh tech sector, with salaries averaging a well-above-average £43k per annum.

Wales isn’t without its major companies either. Global firms like Sony, GoCompare, IQE and GE Aviation all have head offices in South Wales.

So London isn’t necessarily the only city that’s an attractive proposition for global giants, and South Wales is a serious challenger to London’s supremacy.

Nurturing Top talent

One such Global giant that recognises South Wales as an area for cultivating the next-generation of technology professionals is US firm Cisco, who recently formed a partnership with the University of South Wales and the Welsh Government to set up an educational initiative to train the next generation of cybersecurity pros.

The National Cyber Security Academy – based in Newport – will provide courses that are based on real-life scenarios, as opposed to focusing on just theory.

With business such as BT, British Gas, EE, T-Mobile and Admiral, all having contact centres based here, who are producing highly trained sales and service talent.

Customer service staff, and when they move on from these roles the attraction to a growing start-up can sometimes be too hard to turn down.

Selling a product or service business is always the hardest part, and having this unique, individual talent pool to tap into is a definite benefit

The futures bright

While London is unlikely to be knocked off its perch as the UK’s biggest and most lucrative business centre, there is a clear sign that innovative, and growing digital ecosystems are developing throughout Britain and Wales is leading the way.

We do not doubt that with the ongoing, consistent support and enthusiasm of businesses, entrepreneur, investors and government, the Welsh tech sector will continue to thrive, for many years to come.