Avril Lewis, Managing Director of Wales Tech Week and creator of Technology Connected, explores some of our nation’s strongest tech sectors, and the opportunities they offer to Welsh businesses and workers – all of which will be platformed at the summit in October.
In Welsh business circles, there is a common refrain that Wales does not effectively promote its strengths. We want to change this with Wales Tech Week, helping private and public sector organisations stay up to speed with the potential of innovation – and championing exceptional Welsh technology on an international stage.
During the summit in October, our packed agenda will feature exhibitors, demonstration zones, a dedicated “Startup Alley”, a Pitch Platform, expert panels and speakers, international link ups and a dedicated “Talent4tech” event for tech-curious students and workers.
A key mission for us is to highlight the breadth and depth of remarkable Welsh innovation and technological capabilities. These strengths encompass various areas, with world-leading expertise in cyber security and compound semiconductors. Additionally, we will shine a spotlight on emerging sectors such as fintech which is continually gaining strength in Wales.
Why is Wales a world leader in cyber security?
Historically the answer is partly down to the location of UK military and defence sites, according to John Davies from Cyber Wales, the industry’s representative body.
South Wales forms the western side of the “Severn Valley Cyber Launchpad” area, with several strategic defence assets in close proximity, such as GCHQ in Cheltenham, the Royal Signals Reserve unit in Cardiff, and the 14 Signal Regiment based in Haverfordwest, which provides, they say, “worldwide communications and tactical cyber capability”. Over decades, this defence infrastructure helped create a foundation for the information security industry.
The next important factor is Wales’ universities, which produce a stream of tech-capable graduates in different areas of cyber security with varying focuses. The University of South Wales, for example, specialises in cyber forensics – investigating cyber security breaches and devising protections against further attacks. The university also joined forces with the Welsh Government to launch the National Cyber Security Academy, offering a BSc in Applied Cyber Security.
The field is critical for all businesses, but many of these graduates from Welsh university cyber courses go to work in globally recognised companies with bases in Wales, such as Airbus, Thales, QinetiQ, BAe, and General Dynamics.
Within a short distance of these Academic Centres of Excellence (ACE) and businesses, Wales hosts some of the UK government’s largest, strategically important databases – the DVLA in Swansea, the Office for National Statistics and a regional Passport Office in Newport, and, in Cardiff, Companies House and the Intellectual Property Office.
The combination of all these elements has created a concentration of cyber security expertise in Wales, which in turn has contributed to the UK’s position as a global leader in cyber capability, ranked second after the US.
As the representative body, Cyber Wales has several “clusters” – for example covering North Wales and South Wales, Women in Cyber, and different specialisms like Data Privacy.
Such is the breadth of expertise in Wales that the UK and Welsh Government recognise this field offers extraordinary opportunities for business creation and well-paid work.
The Welsh Government, in partnership with the Cardiff Capital Region and others, has invested in the Cyber Innovation Hub, led by Cardiff University with partners including Airbus, Alacrity Cyber, CGI, Thales NDEC, Tramshed Tech, and the University of South Wales.
The Cyber Innovation Hub has joined Wales Tech Week as a gold partner.
At the summit we will showcase Wales’ exceptional capability in this field and shine a light on the opportunities available to businesses and future workers here.
Why is there such expertise in Wales in compound semiconductors (and what are they)?
Compound semiconductors play a crucial role across many industries, including telecommunications, electronics, energy, and healthcare, by enabling high-performance devices and advanced functionality.
Unlike silicon microchips, compound semiconductors are made up of two or more elements from the periodic table. They possess unique properties that make them highly valuable in modern technology applications such as higher power, faster speeds, and improved efficiency compared with silicon semiconductors. Their use in applications like 5G communication networks, electric vehicles, renewable energy systems, and advanced healthcare devices has contributed to significant technological breakthroughs.
But why has Wales emerged as such a strong player in this field? Chris Meadows, from industry body CSconnected, traces it back over more than three decades to the creation of a strong ecosystem comprising leading companies and academic institutions.
Businesses such as IQE, KLA SPTS Technologies, and Microchip are lynch pins in Wales' compound semiconductor industry. Additionally, universities like Cardiff University and Swansea University actively contribute to research and development in this field. The more recent establishment of the Compound Semiconductor Centre and the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult provide prototyping facilities completing the innovation cycle from research through to world-class manufacturing.
The UK government's recently announced £1bn investment in the semiconductor sector highlights the importance and potential of this industry. This funding aims to strengthen the UK's position in the global semiconductor market, drive innovation, and create job opportunities.
With the increasing demand for compound semiconductor-based products, there is a chance for Wales to further develop the supply chain with companies involved in materials supply, device fabrication, testing, packaging, and more. As the industry grows, there will also be a need for a skilled workforce, creating high-value employment and training opportunities in Wales and the wider UK.
CSconnected is the international partner of Wales Tech Week. We’ll be platforming Wales’ depth of expertise and commercial experience in this field on a global stage, and encouraging our “Talent4Tech” attendees to investigate a potential career in this area.
Robust expansion for Welsh fintech
Wales is also thriving as a leading player on the UK fintech stage, with a diverse range of businesses and innovative solutions.
Welsh success stories connected to this sector include key financial and tech services organisations such as Admiral, Confused.com, Go.Compare, LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Principality Building Society, Hodge, Yoello, Sero, Sonovate, Delio, Mazuma, Finalrentals, AGAM and many more.
There are also a number of extremely exciting startups coming through the pipeline, thanks to the FinTech Wales Foundry programme and Wales’ collaborative ecosystem, which further enhance the environment for new companies.
The collaboration between industry and academia, including Welsh Universities, colleges and training providers, also plays an essential role in developing the skills and talent required for Welsh fintech to grow.
FinTech Wales is the independent members’ association and champion of the FinTech and Financial Services industry in Wales. Founded under the initial direction of Wealthify and ActiveQuote co-founder Richard Theo, it is now headed by Sarah Williams-Gardener, former Government Affairs Director at IBM and a member of the founding team at Starling Bank.
The organisation offers key support to its network of fintechs and associate members, bringing together entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes, as well as technology suppliers, innovators, universities and public sector bodies. In addition to nurturing and supporting those businesses already in Wales, it aims to develop an ecosystem that will encourage and attract new fintech companies to startup or scale-up in the region. Ultimately, the goal is to make Wales a leading pillar in the global fintech community.
As a key partner of Wales Tech Week, Fintech Wales recognises how the summit will promote Welsh companies on a global stage, highlight the strength of the fintech ecosystem in Wales, generate opportunities for entrepreneurs, and attract and grow new talent.
As Sarah concluded during the Wales Tech Week/ Business News Wales digital discussion on the strength of the fintech sector: “Wales is known for being modest, but we’re really keen to share with everybody the brilliance that we have here. Our ambition is to be much louder and prouder about the success we have.”
These three sectors are a crucial part of Wales Tech Week, but there is more to the nation’s technology economy, with momentum also building in sectors such as blockchain, photonics and the creative industries.
The enthusiasm, expertise and drive of the people growing these technology sectors in Wales is striking. By bringing them together collectively and leveraging their diverse perspectives, Wales Tech Week will amplify the potential for powerful collaboration and transformative action.
For anyone interested in working with or for tech companies, the Wales Tech Week summit in October provides an opportunity to explore a new career path, or connect, collaborate and do business with like-minded professionals. To register for free tickets or find out more about exhibiting opportunities, visit WalesTechWeek.com.