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Secretary of State for Wales Joins the Celebration of Wales Tech Industry

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The Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns joined the network for Wales’ technology industry, the ESTnet, to celebrate the outstanding successes of a sector that contributes over £8billion to the Welsh economy.

Joining over 370 members and guests of the ESTnet at the Wales Technology Awards, Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns, praised the contributions made by the circa 3,000 businesses and over 40,000 people who, alongside leading universities, are driving the progression of Welsh tech sector.

The gala celebration at the Wales Millennium Centre, which takes place during the Wales Festival of Innovation, saw six of the country’s leading companies and organisations awarded the Welsh technology industry’s highest accolades.

The successful finalists included, Cardiff University’s National Software Academy, James Smith, CEO of DevOpsGuys, Alina Griestaragiene, Senior Device Engineer at Infineon Technologies Newport Ltd, Wealthify, Wales Interactive, and Ysgol Cae Top.

The Secretary of State for Wales, took to the stage to present the coveted Sir Michael Moritz Tech Start-up Award to ‘robo-investing’ firm, Wealthify.

Speaking at the Wales Technology Awards, Mr Cairns, said:

“Innovation helps drive the UK economy forward.  Not only can it revolutionise the way we live our lives, it can bring real opportunities for businesses to tap into and grow. Innovate UK is the UK Government’s innovation agency working with people, companies and partner organisations to help them do just that.

“I applaud the achievements of the winners and all the nominees of these awards.  I hope your success will inspire the innovators of the future to unleash their own ideas and deliver exciting opportunities across Wales, the UK and the world.”

Mr Cairns’ address echoed the sentiments of ESTnet managing director, Avril Lewis. Reflecting on the quality of this year’s record-breaking number of award entries, and the opportunities that lie ahead for the industry, Ms Lewis, said:

“Tonight our industry comes together to celebrate all that we have achieved over the past year, as we strive to ensure Wales is recognised as the innovative nation we know it to be.

“Wales is a small, agile and dynamic country, which punches well above its weight when it comes to developing the enabling technologies that advance the way we all work and live. The importance of the Welsh technology sector cannot be overstated. We are nation of innovators and enablers, the applications of the technology we create are far-reaching and pervasive. This evening’s finalists exemplify this fact. The products they design, develop and integrate, underpin all sectors and touch upon limitless international markets.

“On behalf of the ESTnet and our headline sponsors who have helped make the Wales Technology Awards the flagship event for Wales tech industry, we congratulate all of our finalists and winners.”

The Wales Technology Awards are supported by some of the Wales leading technology businesses, including its headline sponsor, world leading technology manufacturer, Sony UK Technology Centre.

The Winners:

Sir Michael Moritz Award

Wealthify

Named to honour one of the country’s most successful venture capitalists, Sir Michael Moritz, the category stands to celebrate young Welsh companies which have achieved great success and demonstrate the potential to grow and transform the industry.

Co-established in 2016 by technology specialist Dr Richard Theo and financial expert, Michelle Pearce, Wealthify has developed a revolutionary cross-platform website and app that gives its customers full control and transparency over their investments.

Judges were impressed with Wealthify’s success in becoming a leading UK player in the emerging ‘robo-investing’ sector, which is forecast to be worth around $5 trillion by 2020.

The company utilises algorithms to assist the asset allocation decisions to allow the start-up to process vast quantities of daily market data, without a large investment team. This allows the start-up to provide online wealth management services at a fraction of the cost of traditional providers.  Wealthify’s customers are then able to access this data and make confident investment decisions via Wealthify’s simple, intuitive, and jargon-free platform.

Richard Theo, CEO, of Wealthify, said:

“We’re trying to create an ambitious business and we hope we can be that first unicorn business from Wales that’s being talked of so much.  Winning this award is a big step along the journey towards that achievement.  The award is just for start-ups but if everyone in Wales picked up their smartphone and invested just £1 into a Wealthify plan, we’d be on our way.”

Industry Trailblazer

Cardiff University National Software Academy

Judges praised Cardiff University’s National Software Academy (NSA) for its long-term commitment to change the way that software engineering is taught, and its work to support Welsh Government aims to regenerate the economy of Newport.

A partnership between Cardiff University, Welsh Government and industry leaders, the NSA works to address the shortfall of qualified, industry ready engineers, by producing graduates with industrial experience. In just one year this has seen the Academy’s intake grow from 23 to 65, and the percentage of females in the cohort grow to 17%.

The Academy’s school outreach programme also works to raise awareness of opportunities in the software sector, which places a focus on encouraging females and other under-represented groups in the industry, to peruse careers in software.

Matthew Turner, Cardiff University National Software Academy, said:

“We’re absolutely delighted to achieve the recognition from the industry and win this award.  We’ve done something really innovative in the way we teach and involve industry through the Software Academy.  The job now is to continue to teach more students, to continue working with industry in innovative ways and deliver more graduates into careers in software.”

Tech Leader

James Smith, CEO of DevOpsGuys

Mr Smith co-founded DevOpsGuys in 2013 with a goal to provide web application management without the worry. The company now employs over 70 members of staff and consultants and works with clients including Admiral, Waitrose and ASOS.

Attracted by the opportunities Wales offers to dynamic start-ups, the company relocated to Cardiff. Recently, it secured a £1million funding grant that would enable the firm to protect the quality of the service it provides, while furthering its growth through new contract wins.

The Awards’ judges were impressed by the level of praise that Mr Smith received from those who nominated him, which repeatedly cited his dedication to the values and beliefs that he set out during company’s inception. James was also congratulated for his contribution to the wider tech sector, including the creation of the world’s first DevOps focused conference, which attracted over 200 delegates from around the world.

James Smith, CEO at DevOpsGuys, said:

“The business is fast-growing with a great team in Cardiff and the award is fantastic validation for our work.  Wales is a fantastic place to bring a start-up up from small foundations to a growing SME and we’re proud to put Wales at the forefront of tech.”

Most Innovative Product

Joint winner: Wales Interactive

Pencoed-based games developer and publisher, Wales Interactive, secured the Award for their internationally popular live action video game, The Bunker.

Available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Mac, The Bunker amassed over 100k sales in its first months, made it one of the most popular independent games of 2016.

The title is the first next gen, completely live action video game experience with zero computer generated effects. Filmed on location in a real government nuclear bunker located in Essex, the game tells the story of John, the last survivor living in a government bunker after a nuclear attack wiped out England.

Players will guide John through the bunker, solving puzzles and uncovering secrets. With a story created by writer and designers behind the hugely successful gaming titles The Witcher, SOMA and Broken Sword. The title also stars leading actors, Adam Brown (The Hobbit), Sarah Greene (Penny Dreadful) and Grahame Fox (Game of Thrones).

Richard Pring, Co-founder and Technical Director of Wales Interactive, said: “It’s a great honour to win this award.  We’ve had an amazing evening and are incredibly grateful. The success of the game was unbelievable, and it’s great to celebrate again here in Wales.”

Joint winner: Wealthify

This category also saw Wealthify claim its second award of the evening. Judges were impressed by the company’s dedication to the user experience, which combines smart technology and a straightforward approach, to make investing easy and affordable for everyone.

Wealthify lets people sign up in 10 mins, via PC or mobile devices, and investments can start from just £1. Building portfolios based on customers’ risk appetite and manage them every day, just like a wealth manager.

By rebooting the traditional discretionary investment services to make them 21st century-ready, the company has attracted a wider audience, from younger tech-savvy millennials to seasoned investors wanting a more cost-effective solution.

Best New Talent

Alina Griestaragiene, Senior Device Engineer at Infineon Technologies Newport

Senior Device Engineer, Alina Griestaragiene, joined the UK’s largest power management semiconductor facility as a junior engineer. Within this role, Alina impressed the firm with the relationships she established with global suppliers and her ability to manage and interpret big data, allowing her to quickly progress to the position of senior device engineer.

Judges were particularly impressed by Alina’s strategic skill set, which has enabled her to take a lead role in shaping the future of the business when sourcing new suppliers and streamlining core business processes.

The judging panel also recognised Alina’s quick progression and proven ability to utilise her technical knowledge, to identify and efficiently resolve potential issues before they impacted on production and customer delivery.

Alina Griestaragiene, Senior Device Engineer at Infineon Technologies Newport, said:

“It’s a great honour to be nominated and to win this award.  I’m grateful to be recognised for my work and achievements. I’d like to thank the team I work with and particular my manager Richard Bullock, mentor Jason Matthews and all of our company.”

Best Tech Adopter

Ysgol Cae Top

Bangor’s Ysgol Cae Top primary school saw off stiff competition from other schools and organisations across Wales, for its innovative use of technology which alleviates time pressures for staff and reduce costs through the use of the app, eeZeeTrip.

The app, which was made by Llandudno based software firm Semantise Ltd, allows schools to organise attendance and payments for school clubs, external trips, music lessons, sports fixtures. In addition to eliminating the curse of the lost permission slips, the app provides environmental advantages in paper reduction, and saves school’s administrator and teacher time.

Llew Davies, Headteacher at Ysgol Cae Top, said:

“It’s excellent to see the product celebrated and we hope we’re setting an example for other schools to follow.  Schools don’t need to be told what they need, we should be going out to the private sector telling them what we need to help children learn.”

The app allows the school to communicate with parents about upcoming events and to manage responses and consent forms via the free cloud-based mobile app. Reponses are immediately visible and the payment option saves parents time while the ‘shopping basket’ feature allows parents to pay for multiple actions in a single transaction.

Oggy East, Director of Semantise, said:

“It was a fledgling idea from the school who came to us to implement and we’re now supplying schools across Wales and England.  Feedback from the schools and parents about the convenience and time-saving benefits has been phenomenal. We’re really proud of what we’ve done using tech made in Gwynedd to transform a school in Gwynedd operates.”

Judges were particularly impressed by the school’s application of the app to increase opportunities for students and parents while streamlining resources and decreasing overheads.

For further information on the awards please visit www.walestechnologyawards.co.uk

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