Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in the Welsh capital and surrounding areas will receive support with artificial intelligence (AI) and data science technologies as part of a new Cardiff University initiative.
A targeted and locally accessible hub will match academic expertise with businesses in the Cardiff Capital Region and in the Western Gateway area who want to better understand how digital innovation can transform SME productivity, strengthen resilience and enhance growth.
Funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Hartree Centre, the engagement hub will offer a suite of support options to help SMEs explore and adopt new and emerging technologies in a way that suits their business needs.
The services will align with areas of strength in two of Cardiff University’s newly established strategic research institutes, the Digital Transformation Innovation Institute and the Security Crime and Intelligence Innovation Institute (SCIII) based in the world’s first Social Science Research Park (SPARK).
Professor Alun Preece, Director of the Hartree Centre SME Hub in Cardiff and Co-Director of the SCIII at Cardiff University, said:
“We’re looking forward to working with SMEs to help empower them in adopting cutting-edge AI technologies. Part of that will be assisting them in making the best use of AI even when they don’t have huge amounts of data.
“AI and data science are very fast-moving areas and that can be daunting for any business. For example, a key issue right now is getting the right balance between artificial intelligence and human intelligence. We want to help SMEs cut through the hype and explore ways to innovate responsibly with these transformative technologies.”
The hub will support businesses with human-centric AI including recent developments in natural language processing such as ChatGPT, and AI applications such as cybersecurity, countering disinformation, optimisation, and visualisation.
Professor Roger Whitaker, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Enterprise at Cardiff University, said:
“We’re delighted to be working in partnership with the Hartree Centre, establishing the new SME engagement hub at the heart of the University’s innovation ecosystem.
“Digital transformation is an important driver in bringing together academics from a range of disciplines to tackle issues facing society. The Hartree Centre SME Hub in Cardiff will enable local companies to leverage the University’s cutting-edge research in AI and data science, with a focus on real-world solutions.”
Building on existing SME networks via Cardiff Innovations, Cardiff Business School and the recently concluded Data Innovation Accelerator, the hub aims to deliver 22 projects over 3 years with SMEs in the region.
Peter Sueref, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Empirisys – a Cardiff Innovations partner, said:
“Digital and data science can be a competitive advantage for a Wales that wants to have an identity in an increasingly globally connected and digital world. We have world leading tech clusters in cyber, fintech, data and technology and have great organisations like the Office for National Statistics as well as major universities placed here.
“Tapping into the world-leading talent and research at Cardiff University is a huge opportunity for SMEs like Empirisys. We’re building products that use data science to help keep workers safe, so it’s fundamental to us that we use the latest thinking from academia and cutting-edge research to deliver the best products we can for our customers and their people. I hope others take advantage of this opportunity too with the launch of the new Hartree Centre SME hub at Cardiff University.”
A launch event on Monday 12 June 2023 showcased work already underway with case studies and technological demonstrations on:
- the role of digital innovation in SME productivity and sustainability
- exploring and adopting technologies like data analytics and AI
- SMEs already leading the way in digital adoption
Dr John Barker, Associate Director of Innovation at SimplyDo – another Cardiff Innovations partner, said:
“AI and automation helps us to deliver a big corporate experience, without the resource and cost to the customer of larger organisations.
“This kind of digital transformation is key to growth in the Welsh economy. Ensuring that SMEs maximise productivity through automation will provide them with a competitive edge in an increasingly challenging market.
“For us, locating at sbarc|spark and collaborating with academic experts has been fantastic. From an SME perspective, the opportunity to draw on the talent and research experience in the University means that it is the perfect location for the Hartree Centre SME Hub.”
Working closely with regional and national stakeholders – including Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) and the SETsquared Partnership – the hub aims to grow capacity and capability in digital transformation, enhance prosperity and security, and innovate in an inclusive and responsible way.
Colan Mehaffey, Head of Digital and Data Innovation at Cardiff Capital Region, said:
“We’re delighted to support Cardiff University in delivering the Hartree Centre-funded hub.
“We work across a number of priority industrial clusters that are critical to the Region’s economy and have proximity to a network of SMEs that can realise business benefits through the adoption of AI.
“The hub will lower barriers to adoption and support these SMEs in delivering innovation-led growth.”
Karen Brooks, Head of Scale-Up at SETsquared, added:
“It’s fantastic to see this new SME hub being set up at Cardiff University, one of our SETsquared university partners and a region in which we are committed to driving economic growth.
“Digital transformation is a key way for businesses to become more sustainable. Companies with a strong environmental, social and governance strategy in place are economically more successful which helps them attract further investment and talent as well as helping to save the planet.
“So, this new programme of support is critical on many levels.”
The Cardiff University hub is one of three across the UK to be awarded a share of £4.5 million as part of the Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation programme.
The sites, also in Newcastle University and Ulster University, will be funded for three years to establish a network of digital adoption support that is easily accessible and available locally to SMEs across the UK.