Digital Minister: Wales is a thriving tech cluster producing the companies of the future right now

By Digital Minister Caroline Dinenage

With its roots in steel and mining, Wales has always played a critical role in UK industry. Having gone to university in Wales, I know what a beautiful country it is and love it very much – so I am pleased a burgeoning tech sector is taking shape, one that is growing rapidly and creating new jobs in the digital economy.

If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that digital services are central to allowing us to learn, work and socialise from home. Apps and online platforms keep us connected to friends and colleagues, allowing us to virtually secure deals and sales, order goods and groceries, and even have appointments with doctors and nurses.

Startups and scaleups across Cardiff and Wales have been hugely important in providing essential services. The likes of ANNA Money have made sure businesses have access to fast and secure bank accounts, and Amplyfi, the insights platform, has helped companies make better decisions by capturing data. Meanwhile, OpenGenius, the company behind task management app, Aoya, is used by global companies like Amazon, Samsung and Salesforce.

This week members of Wales’ tech and innovation sector, academics from the region’s universities and representatives of skills organisations across Wales are coming together online to discuss the challenges the region faces when it comes to recruiting talent and convincing young people to go into this thriving industry.

In particular, we heard how dynamic businesses need passionate and skilled staff. Businesses such as the professional services giant Deloitte and insurance provider Admiral are competing to hire top talent in Cardiff, along with the region’s growing number of startups and scaleups. According to new research by Tech Nation and the job search engine Adzuna, there are currently 1,426 IT-related job vacancies in Wales, and in Cardiff, more than 10 per cent of all open job roles are in the tech sector, overtaking healthcare and accounting and finance to be the city’s fastest-growing industry.

Luckily, Wales has many sources to draw upon. Cardiff University’s National Software Academy has been credited for its work training the next generation of software engineers, while the opening of the Cardiff School of Technologies in 2018 marked a clear signal that the city had a key role to play in supporting this growing economy.

And it’s not just graduates that are taking up exciting roles in the Welsh tech sector. A previous Tech Nation report from summer 2020 showed that 21 per cent of the Cardiff workforce is now employed in digital tech roles, one of nine cities outside London that has more than 20 per cent of the workforce employed in tech. The digital economy can have huge benefits for local economies and services and this government is committed to helping spread these opportunities right across the UK.

Those in Wales who go into tech careers can benefit from rewarding, well-paying jobs with the average salary in Wales’ tech sector at £42,179, over £10,000 more than the general average at £31,984. Even higher salaries can be secured for specialist roles. For example a solutions architect – responsible for the design of applications within an organisation –  can command salaries almost double the national average, at £60,450.

We are an unashamedly pro-tech government, determined to help spread the benefits of the digital economy to every corner of the UK and new opportunities are being created every day in Wales.

In the summer, a major new project in South Wales called CSconnected received £44 million from the UK government and industry to propel cutting-edge R&D projects. In collaboration with Cardiff and Swansea Universities and leading Welsh manufacturing companies, the project will help strengthen emerging industries in South Wales and deliver major technological advances in areas such as 5G, autonomous vehicles, communications and medical devices.

Investments like this are essential to making sure new and established companies have the tools they need to seize the opportunities the digital economy brings.

The race is on to upgrade to 5G and unleash a wave of innovation across the country, and Wales has been at the forefront of that revolution with a world-first partnership between the UK government and Japanese telecoms firm NEC.

The trial is using cutting-edge tech to rethink how we can build telecoms networks to boost their resilience at a time when the UK is over-reliant on just a few companies which dominate the global market.

Since 2017 we’ve spent £200 million on innovative trials like these across the country to push the envelope on what this game-changing mobile technology can do across a wide range of industries, and Wales has played a key part in this.

For instance, in Monmouthshire a partnership of SMEs and universities has been trialling how 5G can help connect poorly-served communities and boost tourism. This project has been leading the way in designing high capacity semiconductor chips at the Newport Wafer Fab.

The past few months have posed many challenges to people, businesses and organisations across the country. As the minister for digital I know the immense value of the tech sector in supporting us to navigate the measures we’ve had to impose and am incredibly thankful for its contribution.

I am also excited about the future. Era-defining businesses are born out of times such as these and it’s clear Wales’ flourishing tech scene is nurturing the exciting startups that will help drive our digital-led economic recovery out of the pandemic and beyond.

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