– By Pryderi ap Rhisiart
The importance of digital has been apparent for decades but only a few could have predicted just how fundamental a role it would play in all aspects of our lives. From agriculture and energy, to transport, health, entertainment and the creative industries – digital innovation is at the heart of everything we do, every day.
Technology has usually been thought of in the context of work or something that most of us don’t need to understand, and more so over the past 12 months as a way of keeping in touch. However, it’s now becoming clearer that digital is integral to so many different sectors and to so many aspects of our lives – to thrive we have to embrace it.
This is why at M-SParc, Bangor University’s science park, we are keen to promote the role that digital technology can play, now and into the future. We want to share the way it can be a force for good, to create opportunities and to push the boundaries.
Welsh Government has recently published its Digital Strategy for Wales. It’s six key missions cover digital services, inclusion, skills, economy, connectivity and collaboration – all essential if we’re to thrive in this revolution. These are all core to our work at M-SParc, and have been since day one.
Our work echoes the missions of the Digital Strategy, from our coding clubs for young people to developing skills, and from improving connectivity to the roll out of 5G. It’s also there as we embrace emerging sectors such as digital agriculture and celebrate local successes and digital opportunities in the creative sector. We work hard to make sure we can be at the heart of it all.
One project we’ve been working on recently is our partnership with Creative North Wales. It looks for ways to use the talent we have here on our doorstep to promote the use of digital technology to extend creative opportunities and to generate economic momentum from it.
We have been supporting the project over recent months to attract new members and deliver specialist events, designed to allow sharing ideas at a time when opportunities to meet face to face are limited. Its next event on the 21st of April will celebrate the gaming industry in the area and the opportunities it presents.
To understand the benefits of bringing innovators in digital technology and creatives together we need look no further than some of our own tenant businesses at M-SParc. Cread Cyf is a well-established player in the creative industries in north Wales and also member of Creative North Wales. Run by Stephen Edwards the company has evolved and expanded over recent years from providing graphic design services to full media production.
Fresh off the back of successful television series for S4C, ‘Y Llinell Las’ produced by Cread, Stephen explains:
“Working here at M-SParc really has meant taking the business to another level. It’s a supportive environment which lets us share new ideas with like-minded people who have access to the technology which can bring projects to life.
“I have always been interested in how digital technology can help me express my creativity – so I’m pleased to see the partnership between North Wales Creative and M-SParc develop.”
Another exciting piece of work that we’ve been involved in which shows the impact of digital innovation is our Green Eagle drone project. After successfully gaining funding from Welsh Government for a net zero farming project we joined forces with two of our tenant businesses – drone filming company, Aerialworx and artificial intelligence specialists, Fortytwoable. The aim of Green Eagle is to use drones and artificial intelligence as an alternative means of spraying pesticides and managing vegetation. The hope is that it will save costs, reduce environmental impact and improve farm safety.
With developments in other growth sectors such as renewable energy right here on our doorstep, there is also an increase in demand for the innovative use of technology to manage these energy projects. Some of the businesses here at M-SParc like Animated Technologies and Papertrail are already rising to the challenge and are using their digital skills and services to do just this.
Beyond these individual projects the statistics tell us that digital is already outgrowing other sectors and is worth more than £400 million a day to the UK economy. It is growing six times faster than other sectors. I want to make sure north Wales can capitalise on this.
This is the now of course, however, we also need to prepare for the future, and I am always keen to look ahead and make sure we don’t stand still. It’s important we do all we can to help young people to develop the necessary digital skills to make the most of these opportunities which are available right here in their own communities. As chair of North Wales Regional Skills Partnership Digital Employers Group this is something that I want to promote and M-SParc is committed to driving this agenda forward.
For over two years we have been working with local schools alongside STEM Gogledd and TechnoCamps to help develop these skills. The latest addition to our programme of work with young people is the new weekly Clwb Sbarci which recently saw over 100 children take part in one of its sessions.
All too often industry is frustrated by the lack of digital skills, and whilst demand is soaring it seems employers believe young people are leaving education without sufficient advanced digital skills. I look forward to working with the Regional Skills Partnership to identify the challenges and to bridge this gap. Certainly the inclusion of digital competence as one of the mandatory cross-curricular skills in the new Curriculum for Wales is a significant step forward which we welcome. M-SParc will be delivering training to empower secondary school teachers to deliver the new curriculum in May.
We know the possibilities of digital innovation are endless, especially when we bring collaboration into the mix. As an enabler, technology is a platform which impacts all aspects of our lives at home, at work as well as in our leisure activities. We’re always keen to expand our outlook at M-SParc so that we can help businesses of today make the most of this potential as well as ensure that skills are developed for the future.