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21 September 2023

Reshaping Our Region Through Innovation & Clusters

When Gavin Powell came to CCR to drive the Innovation & Clusters agenda in July this year, he brought with him two decades’ experience of working within the priority sectors of our Region – and a wide-ranging expertise that has seen him deliver at the highest echelons of innovation, as well as being a catalyst for Fintech and a key contributor to AI and Medtech in South East Wales. 

With the five main priority sectors of Compound Semiconductors, Creative Industries, Cybersecurity, Fintech and Medtech sitting at the very heart of CCR’s Regional Economic & Industrial Plan, we spoke to Gavin about why he’s so excited about his latest challenge – and a future being built on the ingenuity of many different industries …

From AI and Airbus, to Fintech, Medtech and CCR ….

“Although I was brought up near the Black Mountains, between Hereford and Hay-on-Wye, the Cardiff Capital Region has been at the centre of my life for the past quarter of a century” says Gavin.

“I did both my Masters in AI and my subsequent PhD in the Computer Science faculty of Cardiff University – before working with Airbus for eight years in a number of senior roles across their innovation department. I’ve been fortunate enough to develop at one of the most pre-eminent learning institutions and work with one of the top employers in our Region – in disciplines that are integral to the transformation that’s made South East Wales the fastest-growing UK digital economy outside London.

“I left Airbus to help build FinTech Wales – working with Richard Theo, the local serial tech entrepreneur who had been chosen by the HM Treasury as FinTech Envoy for Wales. Our work laid the foundations for what has become an ecosystem that connects and collaborates, and an engine for nurturing talent, so I was thrilled to see CCR invest £1.6M in FinTech Wales, as it validated our initial belief that Welsh Fintech can take its place in the world economy. It’s a view being backed up with ambition, as shown by CCR’s £4M support for Yoello, helping realise the global vision of a home-grown fintech startup that’s revolutionising how customers order and pay in the hospitality industry.

“My journey has also included numerous start-up experiences beginning in medtech, including a company that was acquired by Specsavers. Seeing those products I helped develop used in clinic was really exciting for me and cemented my ambitions to enable positive change through innovation. And here again I have that opportunity, in the fast-growing Medtech sector, where we can clearly see the CCR appetite for making intelligent investments and inspired interventions, supporting medtechs such as Creo Medical, Human Data Sciences and Jellagen with multi-million pound investments that are already benefiting both the Region and the world.”

Making intelligent investments and inspired interventions

“We shouldn’t underestimate the impact those CCR investments have already made,” says Gavin.

“In the last few weeks alone, Creo Medical’s CROMA and Speedboat Inject technology has enabled the Royal Oldham Hospital to treat record numbers, with exceptional results for NHS patients, the hospital and its staff.

“Human Data Science’s pioneering Livingstone platform has given birth to – which is proving to be a complete game changer in terms of global health analysis.

“And Jellagen has significantly progressed its mission to bring the highest-performing collagen to market, with the potential to transform tissue engineering and regenerative medicine – and radically reduce both environmental and human health risk.

“Our investments have also enabled the world-first Compound Semiconductor cluster to become such a leading light in the fourth industrial age, with the UK Government putting it firmly at the centre of its £1BN National Semiconductor Strategy.

“We should be rightly proud of what is being achieved in this remarkable sector – with this month’s announcement that CSA Catapult is expanding across the UK to Bristol, the North East and Scotland showing the unique strengths of a cluster that’s helping companies fully embrace the power of compound semiconductor technology, empowering them to bring their innovations to market, through an ecosystem that’s grown from strength-to-strength within a 20-mile radius of Newport, helped significantly by our £37.9M investment in IQE.

“With CCR’s two other world-firsts – the Cyber Innovation Hub and the R&D-based Media Cymru – already bearing fruits for the Cybersecurity and Creative Industries, our strategy to act as a catalyst for Innovation and Clusters is making a measurable difference: creating high-quality sustainable jobs, contributing positively to the local economy …. raising the credibility of our Region as a great place to be – and a destination for serious inward investment.

“Net Zero is our final priority sector. We have been putting this together in the background, with a new cluster management team arriving in the next month. With the acquisition, demolition and repurposing of Aberthaw power station on course to become a centre for energy and net zero activity, this is a really exciting progression for CCR.”

Priority Sector innovation making real world impact

“Innovation is the X-factor in the modern world – delivering the compelling competitive advantage for enterprises in all markets and sectors. That’s why it’s so important to the Region. We want South East Wales to be known for how it innovates, acting as a gold standard – making the most of technology to remove barriers, so anyone can thrive here as an innovator.

“Understanding how clusters and sectors operate and grow – by nurturing and enabling good innovation – is the key to unlocking our full potential. Leveraging that knowledge will make the Region more connected, competitive, and resilient – creating a regional innovation ecosystem that enables our existing and emerging sectors and clusters to work effectively together, delivering real benefits to the economy, the wellbeing of citizens and our journey to net zero.

“Creating the strategy for ‘good innovation’ in every priority sector and cluster – and nurturing a regional innovation ecosystem – will see us optimise supply chains, develop strategic sites, make targeted skills interventions, leverage Research & Innovation funding streams and establish an end-to-end data infrastructure that means we can continually make the right decisions, intelligently and sustainably.

“That good innovation supports ‘Good Growth’: shaping an economy where the opportunity to skill or work in high-value employment is open to all – building an engine for a Cardiff Capital Region where everyone is connected locally and globally, enjoying work, business and life opportunities that make us the place to fulfil potential.”

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