Avril Lewis, Managing Director, Technology Connected, thinks it's time we showed the world how big our technology achievements are
Technology Connected works to unite and champion the Welsh technology industry, promoting its social and economic impact both in Wales and across the world.
Having worked with the industry for over two decades, I have seen the agility, ingenuity, and creativity of its disruptive and transformative nature evolve the industry to become ubiquitous in the way we work and live.
But technology “is not very big in Wales”.
Last week, as part of my role as member of the NDEC Steering Board, I was delighted to attend the showcase for the Thales National Digital Exploitation Centre (NDEC) in Ebbw Vale.
The £20 million cyber centre is the result of work between Technology Connected leading member, Thales UK, and the Welsh Government, and has already contributed £1 million to the Welsh economy, along with boosting the profile of digital technology in Wales.
NDEC is just one of the many exciting technology initiatives happening in Wales, and a perfect example of what can be achieved through collaboration between industry, academia, and government.
In truth, there is no shortage of positive stories within our innovative technology sector.
The breadth of our technology industry is exceptional. Within Wales we have global and multinational technology leaders, clever indignous SMEs and emerging businesses, and a dynamic start-up community, all transforming markets and sectors such as automotive, agri-tech, fintech, energy, environment, and public services, to name just a few.
Our industry is creating and developing world leading technology, from compound semiconductors to AI, big data, blockchain, cyber, photonics and more. We are also building an ecosystem across academia, professional services, and incubator co-working spaces, to help accelerate innovation and growth.
However, while there is an abundance of innovation and success within the Welsh technology industry, in true Welsh fashion we have been poor historically in shouting about our success and in making the wider world aware of the power and potential of Welsh technology.
In 2019, a fantastically bright young man named Yousuf Bakshi from Cardiff made the incredible achievement of earning a place at Harvard University, one of the elite universities in the world.
But when asked what his plans were after graduating by the BBC, he said that he would like to return home after his degree but “computer science is not very big in Wales”.
It is that phrase, “not very big in Wales”, that has resonated with me over the past few months.
How sad is it that our industry stands to lose exceptional homegrown talent like Mr Bakshi, when there are businesses across Wales investing heavily in areas such as data science.
Securing and retaining talent is a key part in growing and evolving our industry. Growing our influence in the global market will be dependent on our ability to retain and upskill existing talent, as well as attracting new world-leading talent to Wales.
To ensure we are able to secure a future for Welsh technology, both in skills and investment, it is crucial that we are able to unite as an industry to promote our work, raise our profile, and expand our news network.
Mr Bakshi’s thoughts highlight the fact that, while there is a tremendous amount of activity and innovation within Wales, unless we are to unite and share learning, success and insight, Wales will face significant challenges in being able to reach its full potential as a global player and aspirations to be a global leader.
In many ways we are in the eye of a storm, a storm of political uncertainty on a global scale, while also standing at the precipice of great change. How we act as an industry in the next few years could radically change the face of Wales for decades to come.
How do we overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities?
Now more than ever, our technology industry needs to come together across markets and sectors to ensure our economic and social impact is identified, and work with key stakeholders to ensure that we have all necessary, dynamic, support mechanisms in place, to accelerate and support the growth of this great industry.
Through Technology Connected our goal is to unite and champion this industry through our programmes, events and initiatives. Our recently launched partnership with Business News Wales is key to this, in helping to showcase our technology industry and giving a platform to the innovative businesses shaping the future right here in Wales.
At the beginning of this new decade, let’s break down the walls between sectors and come together to highlight our achievements, grow our industry and demonstrate to the world that technology is in fact, “very big in Wales”.