Excitement in Wales grows over tech potential as Digital event opens in Cardiff

More than 2,000 technologists and business minds from across the UK and world have descended on Cardiff for the opening of the Digital Festival at Tramshed.

The fifth annual event could not come at a more exciting time for Welsh tech, following the signing of a deal that’s set to turn Wales into a world-leading semiconductor cluster.

Hailed as a milestone moment for Wales’s booming tech sector, the deal is expected to attract £375 million in private investment and create 2,000 well-paid, highly skilled jobs in the region.  

IQE Plc, which is headquartered in Cardiff, has an 80 per cent market share in the compound semiconductor wafers industry. This technology is central to the next generation of smart phones and tablets.

As well as IQE, a host of other big names will share keynote talks around themes that are set to shape Wales and the world over the coming years – including the Internet of Things.

Speakers include the likes of Fortune and TIME lauded digital strategist Inma Martinez, techUK president Jacqueline de Rojas; as well as Red Letter Day entrepreneur and Dragons Den star Rachel Elnaugh.

David Murray-Hundley, a leading Welsh entrepreneur and investor, is a big believer in Welsh technology. He said:  “Four years ago and, I don’t think Wales will mind me saying that, a lot of the companies I met had a bit of a chip on their shoulder.

“That’s changed. Recently I was a judge for Innovation Point’s Digital Dozen and was really impressed with the attitudes and quality on the whole. I went to a meet-up in Cardiff and again was impressed.”

He added: “I have been fortunate to spend some time with companies such as University Cribs, Careercake and others and the energy and determination is impressive.  

“And that’s why I am actively investing in Wales. They have some gems and the rest of the UK are following the sheep and, I suspect in some cases, missing out on these gems.”

At the event, University Cribs – an online platform for student property rental – is announcing the completion of a seed funding round totalling £450,000.

In a quest to emulate this success, 11 start-ups chosen to take part on the Digital Dozen accelerator will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas and innovations to investors at the event. 

Ken Skates, cabinet secretary for economy and infrastructure, commended the spirit of the industry. Opening the event, he said: “Businesses in Wales are undoubtedly at the forefront of the tech revolution.

“The Welsh Compound Semiconductor Cluster is the first cluster of its kind in the world, developing the technology that will shape the way we live our lives tomorrow.

“The cyber security solutions developed in Wales have an international reputation and help safeguard our citizens and businesses; and the technology being developed in Wales is changing the way we bank, shop and access vital services.

“Digital festival is celebrating everything Wales has to offer the technological revolution, and it’s great to see industry leaders, start-ups, and everyday tech lovers come to the Welsh capital for the event.”

David Warrender, chief executive of event organiser Innovation Point, said:  “Every year Lonely Planet releases its list of the top ten hottest travel tips for the next 12 months.  

“If there was an equivalent for the tech world – the insider tips on the places to start, grow or invest in a digital business- I’m convinced that Wales would be sitting pretty top of the perch.  

“And it’s not just me.  The Digital event is bringing some of the world’s most disruptive thinkers and doers to our doorstep.  They don’t do that for the air miles.”

He added: “Something’s happening here in the Welsh tech scene, from enabling Apple’s latest bit of kit to do what it does right through to investment announcements from our Digital Dozen.

“With smart start-ups scaling up, it won’t be long before Wales has its first unicorn company.  Maybe then it won’t just be the insiders who tip our tech scene for great things.”