A recent report from Tech Nation has revealed that the UK’s tech industry stands out as a clear leader in Europe, with more skilled workers, greater digital collaboration and the highest investment attraction of any European country, with digital tech investment reaching £6.8 billion in 2016.
The UK now boasts 1.64 million jobs in the tech sector, many of which are highly skilled, highly paid roles, and as such, the UK’s digital economy is growing more than twice as fast as the wider economy. This industry boom isn’t just centred around London either with the report revealing that more than £4.6 billion (68%) of the UK’s tech investment was in regions outside the capital. One of the biggest success stories was South Wales, with Cardiff and Swansea lining up to become the UK’s next biggest tech employers. Backed up by a report from Randstad, the South Wales cities are the fastest growing digital cities in the UK, rivalling nearby Bristol and it’s a trend that is set to continue.
Cardiff and Swansea’s booming tech industry boasts 17,471 jobs in the digital field as well as 103 new tech and digital start-ups in the last year, offering the nation’s’ digital talent a host of opportunities in the region. Major companies such as Admiral Group and GE Aircraft Engine Services are based in South Wales as well as exciting new startup firms such as AMPLYFI which specialises in using data mining from the Deep Web using new AI technology.
This growth is supported by the national and Welsh Government who are pouring funding into the region’s technical development. In 2016 investment was secured for a new Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult in Cardiff and this year the Development Bank of Wales are due to invest more than £1 billion in supporting Welsh Businesses. Also new is the introduction of Welsh Government Scheme ‘Superfast’, aimed at increasing broadband connectivity across Wales and Cardiff Capital Region City’s deal to drive digital innovation across South East Wales.
Such commitment from investors is not a surprise when you look at the strong tech infrastructure that exists in South Wales. The four major universities in the area all offer strong IT programmes to students, with Cardiff University and The University of South Wales launching a National Software Academy and a National Cyber Security Academy respectively. On the strength of the Swansea University IT programme, Swansea Bay City Region has secured a £500 million deal to turn the region into a digital super hub and Cardiff Metropolitan University also offers a high standard of digital and tech programmes. This means the region is producing a steady stream of tech savvy graduates with programming, design and development skills into the local workforce, increasing the strength of the talent pool for tech employers.
Post graduation, South Wales’ support for tech innovators continues, with a host of further development and networking opportunities in the area for young tech entrepreneurs such as The Alacrity Foundation and Cardiff Start. One of the most important and interesting programmes to come out of the region and catapult South Wales to the forefront of the UK’s tech industry is the launch of Innovation Point’s new Welsh Technology accelerator programme ‘Digital Dozen’. This programme has been set up to support 12 of the best, new tech entrepreneurs or startups, providing training and resources to help them grow a successful business. Innovation Point has spent time developing this programme to maximise on success, working with other accelerators in the US and Europe to find the most successful methods of supporting these businesses, researching what does and doesn’t work and focusing on the individuals involved. Each finalist receives one to one mentoring, networking opportunities and the skills and resources to secure investment that can fast track them to the next level.
South Wales’ technical hubs in Cardiff and Swansea are the result of strong recognition from educators and influencers in the region of the importance of digital innovation but it is not just this that draws people to the area. Situated close to the beautiful Welsh countryside and beaches, with good transport links to Bristol and London, South Wales is the perfect home for a lifestyle that mixes work and play. The country has a strong national identity with a culture that values sport and music. Residents have a 7.56 life satisfaction score and it’s not surprising given what the area has to offer, especially given that house prices are below UK average, making it the ideal location for tech workers and entrepreneurs alike.
Photograph by National Assembly for Wales