Reflecting on 2017: The best Welsh tech stories from the past year

It feels pretty surreal to say that Christmas is over and 2018 is finally here, proving that time clearly does go fast. At this point, you’re probably recovering from a week of overindulging on chocolate and alcohol as you return to work.  

As a new year starts, it’s always a great time to reflect on the things that have happened over the past few months. If there’s one thing which is certain, it’s that Wales continues to demonstrate that it’s a hotpot for innovative companies and entrepreneurs.

2017 marked another exciting period for the Welsh technology industry. There were countless milestones and launches throughout the year, from record numbers attending Cardiff’s Oi Conference to funding achievements at companies like Veeqo.

Here are the best Welsh tech stories from 2017.

January 2017: Cardiff Uni gets £13 million for semiconductor tech

At the start of the 2017, researchers at Cardiff University were given a £13 million EU funding boost to help it develop a new semiconductor facility.

The university is using the money to develop, equip and run a state-of-the-art cleanroom facility within the recently opened Institute for Compound Semiconductors (ICS).

Compound semiconductor technologies, which combine physical and chemical properties, have played an important role in the development of smartphones, tablets and satellite communications.

Professor Colin Riordan, vice chancellor of Cardiff University, said: “This EU funding is a vital component in our bid to generate prosperity in South Wales through industrial innovation.”

February 2017: Duke of York celebrates Welsh tech

In February, key delegates from business, academia, creative industries and technology gathered to watch several Welsh start-ups pitch in front of the Duke of York.

The prestigious Pitch@Palace business competition, pioneered by the Duke, came to Cardiff for the first time on February 24th to celebrate Welsh business and innovation.

It gave several of Wales’s brightest tech entrepreneurs the opportunity to share their ideas and potentially gain a place in the upcoming Pitch@Palace bootcamp.

Speaking to Tech Dragons, the Duke explained that London isn’t the only place where tech is thriving.  “London doesn’t have a monopoly in this country of where innovation or technology is housed. In many cases, you’ll find that the standard of living and the lifestyle is better outside London,” he said.

“At some point, a business of repute is going to have to London to do something. But that doesn’t mean that it has to live there. It can be based anywhere.

March 2017: Oi Conference attracts 1000 delegates

Oi Conf, which is quickly becoming one of Europe’s biggest tech events, attracted more than 1000 social media and mobile specialists yesterday.

Organised by Welsh technology agency CoupMedia, the conference took place at Cardiff’s historic City Hall and provided companies with a glimpse into the latest technology trends.

It ran all day and welcomed technology leaders from companies such as Barclays, Sky, Travelex, Expedia and We Are Social. They gave insightful masterclasses and keynote speeches.

April 2017: Circle IT sees revenue grow to £10 million

Technology services provider Circle IT saw its annual turnover reach £10.8 million in April, representing a staggering growth of 375 per cent over the past five years.

The company has grown thanks to contracts with the likes of the National Museum for Wales, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff & Vale College, Rhondda Housing Association, Cowbridge Comprehensive School and Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC).

Roger Harry, CEO of Circle IT, said: “We’ve had a fantastic year. Not only have we grown the business considerably using a pool of local talent – we’ve continued to cement our position as one of the leading technology businesses with some key wins in great sectors including education, law and media.

May 2017: Fintech firm announces recruitment boost

Delio, a Welsh fintech start-up that’s developed an investment platform for financial institutions, confirmed it’s to expand and create 30 jobs in Cardiff thanks to Welsh Government support.

Founded in 2015 by Gareth Lewis and David Newman, the company has created a white label platform that helps financial organisations connect high net worth clients with global private market investment opportunities.

The Welsh Government provided the firm with £200,000 in repayable business finance. This money will allow it to expand and generate new jobs for the Welsh fintech sector.

June 2017: Proptech firm raises £850,000

Properr, a Cardiff-based property technology start-up, has raised £850,000 to launch its new platform aimed at transforming the UK home purchasing process.

Finance Wales, one of the UK’s largest regional investment companies, led the round along with additional private investment. The company’s flagship product, Track My Move, brings together customers, estate agents and solicitors into one platform – making buying and selling homes more transparent.

July 2017: Pencoed-based Sony facility celebrates growth

The pencoed-based Sony UK Technology Centre celebrated unprecedented growth which has resulted in staff and production numbers soaring.

Over the past five years, the facility has seen its staff numbers grow by 200 – taking the total of its local team to 540. This comes as the company has also seen an increase in production.

In July, the award-winning factory reached the 10 million Raspberry Pi manufacturing milestone in only five years. It’s played an instrumental role in the journey of the third best-selling general purpose computer.

August 2017; Welsh companies showcase at Gamescom

Five of Wales’s leading games companies headed out to Gamescom in Cologne to connect and develop business opportunities with peers from right around the world.

Held annually, Gamescom is the leading European trade fair for digital gaming culture, and it brings together professionals for product launches, business development and knowledge sharing.

This year, to reflect the great strides made by Wales’s digital media sector and its potential economic impact, the Welsh Government showcased five local developers in the UK Pavilion.

They were Quantum Soup Studios; Talespinners; Toxic Games; Wales Interactive; and West Coast Software. Wales Interactive, which has attended the event before, promoted its latest VR Horror game Don’t Knock Twice,

September 2017: Veeqo raises £500,000

Swansea-based tech firm Veeqo, which creates software for online sellers, received £500,000 in government funding to accelerate business growth.

Thanks to Welsh Government funding, the company was able able to secure three new high-profile hires from the likes of billion-dollar tech companies and as far away as New York, London and Berlin.

October 2017: GoCompare promotes digital skills

Cardiff-based financial services comparison website GoCompare became the 250th organisation to sign the Digital Inclusion Charter for Wales.

The charter, which was created by Digital Communities Wales, is aimed at getting more people in Wales online and improving digital skills. GoCompare said it would begin with its staff and customers.

November 2017: First Welsh IoT accelerator opens

Wales’s first Internet of Things accelerator programme opened to give businesses access to financial investment, invaluable knowledge and industry networks.

The Internet of Things Accelerator Wales is a collaboration between  Innovation Point, The Accelerator Network (TAN), Barclays Eagle Labs, Inspire Wales and the Development Bank of Wales.

December 2017: Record growth for Penarth tech firm

TestLodge, a software testing platform,  announced it’s seen a 44 per cent increase in turnover and 31 per cent increase in profit over the past year.

The Penarth-based company said it’s benefited from a weaker pound and a rise in US-based users adopting the testing tool. This extraordinary growth happened between 2016 and 2017.

Image credit: Richard Leonard