Developing Through Digital – M-SParc in the Driving Seat

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Had a pandemic on such a scale happened 10 or even five years ago much of what we now take for granted wouldn’t have been possible.

Never have we been more reliant on, or ready to adopt digital technology and M-SParc, Bangor University’s Menai Science Park is at the centre of the dialogue in Wales, leading on the new digital Cross-Party Group at Welsh Parliament and only this month delivering the first ever Agritech hack.

Looking beyond what has become routine in our daily lives, it’s increasingly apparent that digital technology will play an even greater role in a recovery with the focus on green growth. The team at M-SParc is only too aware of this – with a vision to support and promote digital and low carbon business, it is well placed to facilitate and drive innovation.

Pryderi ap Rhisiart is the Managing Director at M-SParc:

M-SParc “It feels like we’re in a transition period. The pandemic has made us stop and think about what’s important and how we approach things. Extending beyond our work lives, it’s making us think about what the next phase could look like. That’s why we’re so excited about the opportunities digital technology offers. It will be key as we face some of the most significant themes post pandemic – climate change, promoting healthy communities and economic growth.”

The statistics tell us that digital is already outgrowing other sectors. UK Government figures show that it’s worth more than £400 million a day to the UK economy and is growing nearly six times faster than the economy as a whole.

Pryderi again:

“We’re based in rural north Wales. It’s not the first place that comes to mind for digital innovation but we’re on track to change that mindset. M-SParc has shown that with connectivity we can develop innovative businesses in rural Wales. And through initiatives like our 15-week STEM programme, Clwb Sbarci launched this month we can also help develop the right skills here.”

M-SParc isn’t alone in its ambitions to promote digital and emerging technologies of course. Welsh Government launched its framework, for a Digital Wales in December to ensure the country benefits from advances in technology. The framework aims to encourage and support people, businesses and organisations to help make sure Wales is ahead of the game in terms of digital, data, technology and artificial intelligence.

It is part of this and the wider picture that the new Welsh Parliament cross-party group has been set up to promote digital technology. M-SParc is the group’s secretariat.

“Collaboration is very important to us so we were delighted to take on this role with cross-party group”, Pryderi explains.

“It brings together experts and elected members and will ensure that Wales is well-placed to benefit from growth in this field. It fits with our vision and is a real opportunity to ensure the momentum continues to impact all business areas, including those not usually considered as having embraced technology.”

“With this as a backdrop, we have more recently been working with the agriculture sector.  And contrary to general perception the sector has seen a huge growth in the application of technology – to help improve safety, efficiency and profitability. Farming is a core part of the economy here in north Wales, in terms of employment and supply chain, so it’s important that it isn’t left behind in our conversations about technology.”

Recently Emily Roberts, M-SParc’s Operations Manager took part in the on-line Emerging Tech Fest 2021 with Rob Shepherd of EvoMetric – a tenant business at M-SParc. The focus of their session at the three-day showcase was how innovation is driving opportunities in agriculture. Following from this M-SParc is to host its first ever ‘Agri Hack’ on March 1st.

The on-line event aims to provide solutions to specific challenges identified by farmers working with M-SParc. They include how artificial intelligence can assist with calving; smart fencing and the storage of slurry. Innovators are asked to pitch their ideas to secure a share of £100,000 provided by Welsh Government to develop solutions, along with support for commercialisation to develop these ideas into business propositions.

According to Pryderi there is an opportunity here to start a business based on new ideas which will help overcome some of the challenges farmers face. He adds:

“I’d urge people who have even the beginnings of an original concept to register on our website to attend the hack and to pitch to us.

“What the hack and other events we’ve been hosting and projects we’ve been contributing to show is that we shouldn’t think of digital as a sector on its own. I’m keen to promote a different way of thinking about technology – it is a cross-cutting theme which is having a huge impact across all sectors and every aspect of our lives. Where I see our role is to ensure that we can continue with our drive to supporting digital businesses here at the park and across north Wales – working with partners and investing in digital skills and ideas.”