Rhys Thomas, Chief Operating Officer, Cardiff Capital Region (CCR)
Our economy is struggling, that’s why in Cardiff Capital Region we have the City Deal. Gross value added (GVA) in Wales is around 74 per cent of the UK average, and in Cardiff Capital Region it’s not much better than that.
Our goal in the Cardiff Capital Region is to nurture a resilient, sustainable economy where wealth is created and disseminated around our region. To do that well, we need to focus our efforts on encouraging growth in those sectors where our entrepreneurs can build successful businesses that can face the future with confidence.
That’s why we are targeting a small number of priority sectors, where we can see the shoots already pushing through and where there’s every reason to hope Cardiff Capital Region can compete effectively with other regions around the UK and further afield.
Take cyber for example. We have two large multi-national corporates in the region, Airbus and Thales, but we also have a cluster of cyber companies and SMEs in the region and a concentration of cyber expertise within 50 miles.
And that’s important, because companies like Airbus and Thales do not come and stay in a region like ours simply because of financial inducements; there has to be something more to attract them. That something is our people: it’s the talent and expertise both within and coming out of our universities, and the ecosystem of our cyber SMEs where people can bounce ideas around and develop them.
The same is true of some our other priority sectors, such as life sciences where local companies are doing great work in medical diagnostics and devices, and fintech where our strong foundation of financial services businesses is providing a fertile environment for young companies at the forefront of technology development.
Then there’s compound semiconductors, where we have a world leading cluster emerging in the development and production of these vital components in the technologies of tomorrow.
Whether it’s in one of these sectors or our other priority sectors such as the creative industries, artificial intelligence, transport engineering or energy and the environment, our approach in the Cardiff Capital Region is primarily to enable homegrown growth in the confidence that it will prove lasting and sustainable.
We’re not interested in simply handing out grants, we see our role as attracting businesses that are here for the long term, with innovative funding mechanisms that incentivise companies to stay.
In the Cardiff Capital Region, although we have around £500m to invest in our various funds, we are looking for a return on our investment in some form. At the same time, we are not like a commercial bank, nor are we risk averse. When we invested £38m in the Compound Semiconductor Foundry in Newport it was seen as high risk, but to us it was a key part in establishing this critical sector of the future in our region.
If you were to ask me how I hoped Cardiff Capital Region would be in 20 years’ time, I’d say I hope it will be a competitive region, confident in its own skin. That’s what we’re trying to achieve with our investments and our programmes, to give our businesses the environment they need to grow with confidence and create resilient communities for the benefit of all our people.