Innovation Point was established by Welsh Government in 2016 to deliver innovation-led growth across Wales’s digital sector. We were asked to identify investment and funding opportunities open to the sector. To engage with partners, build relationships and facilitate collaboration. To support Welsh companies in pursuing their commercial ambitions. And in our first three years, we have been successful in doing that. Our work has had a wider impact of £81m on the Welsh economy. We’ve brought £11m of new investment into Wales. Supported 130 bids for investment. Pioneered international tech events and brought 7,000 of tech’s brightest minds together. Helped create and safeguard jobs in the digital sector. For three years, we’ve been driving digital growth in Wales. 2019 marks the conclusion of our original business plan. Here are some of the highlights:
Wales has a deep-rooted history with technological innovation. From Marconi and the first ever radio transmission over water in 1897 to the more recent rise of the compound semiconductor industry in the south east, tech has been a driver in taking Wales to the world. But tech moves fast. In countries where there is public support and investment in the sector, it moves even faster. Since August 2018, the UK Government has invested more than £1bn in its Catapult network – only one of which is in Wales – to drive industry growth in digital sectors. Scotland similarly continues to invest in supporting digital innovation. In Wales, the demand for an institution to drive digital development and support tech sector growth was ever pressing. Innovation Point was an important element in the solution.
Creating environments to encourage new business
We have continued driving the success of Digital Festival, a Wales-based tech conference which attracts industry insiders from around the world. Working in partnership with Welsh Government and headline sponsors, fintech firm GoCompare, we remodelled Digital Festival to focus on a more interactive approach. The event saw the arrival of inspirational speakers including tech UK president Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, David Rowan, Wired UK’s founding editor-in-chief, and Anne Boden, founder of Starling Bank.
Our management of Digital Festival has seen over 5,000 delegates attend from more than 20 countries. In 2018, 58% event attendees reported to have created new business opportunities at the event. Digital Festival has been twice recognised in TechRadarPro’s Ultimate B2B events to attend (2017/18).
And Digital Tuesday, our monthly networking event, attracts regular, engaged audiences of delegates to discuss tech topics of the moment.
As part of our ambitions to develop a more balanced economy across Wales, we also delivered a major emerging tech event in north Wales in late 2018. Additionally, we provided significant support to Bangor University’s 5G Digital Signal Processing (DSP) WEFO bid and participated in the formation and launch of the Monmouthshire Med Tech Hub.
Looking to the future
5G and its advantages will be vital to the development of future technologies, including autonomous transport, digital communications and IoT devices. Innovation Point have been instrumental in advising Welsh Government on ways Wales can exploit opportunities in the emerging 5G landscape. We’ve assembled an expert group to help shape a coherent national programme for Wales, reflecting Welsh Government’s ambitions for digital growth, and continue to contribute to a number of 5G development projects – such as the development of the smartest, most connected road network in the UK, for example.
Through our Digital Women Wales networking and mentorship scheme, launched in 2019, we are playing an instrumental role in ensuring Wales’ tech sector celebrates diversity and becomes a space truly open to all.
The continued market demand for our support, coupled with the economic impact of its activities, indicates how successful the organisation has been over the first three years of its operation. We have acted as a catalyst, delivering tangible outputs for the Welsh tech economy at an important stage in its history. The business support available here is envied on an international scale. And with that support, tech companies here will continue to flourish for years to come.
Positively impacting the economy
We have leveraged £11m of new investment into Wales. In turn, we have delivered around £81m into the Welsh economy (according to Innovate UK, for every £1 of innovation funding received in Wales, £7.30 is delivered into the economy).
We’ve collaborated with Welsh companies on 293 funding proposals and 130 bids for funding or investment. In 2017/18, we supported 1 in 10 of all successful funding bids from Welsh companies. In March 2019, we were credited by Cardiff-based OpenGenius as being “instrumental” in their securing of £1.1m investment. We have helped create or safeguard 50 careers in the digital sector.
We’ve also supported tech companies relocate to or establish permanent offices in Wales, including the networking giant Cisco, as well as C-Stem, OrthopaedX, and Coursematch, whom we later introduced to a range of angel investors and helped secure funding.
In 2016 we were behind the first national tech accelerator to be launched in Wales, the Digital Dozen. Designed to fast-track the growth of Wales’ most disruptive tech firms, the Digital Dozen took Welsh companies including Disberse, Prizm and DropTask to pitch at The London Stock Exchange A number of conversations started there which resulted in the securing of investment from angels based in the city. DevOpsGroup, one of the companies selected for the Digital Dozen programme, recently secured a £3m growth capital investment and describe our support as a “catalyst in [their] investment journey”.
A year later, we delivered the first equity-backed tech accelerator here, Internet of Things Accelerator (IoTA) Wales. The accelerator attracted international start-ups and provided 10 tech companies with funding readiness support and world-class training in vital areas of business development. It also introduced them to investors, helped them secure funding and offered free office space in the heart of Cardiff through our partnership with the Legal & General Barclays Eagle Lab.
IoTA Wales led to follow-on investment of over £1m in the companies involved. Awen Collective, a Caerphilly-based software company who were part of the accelerator, were described by Tech Nation as a ‘leading cyber security scale-up’ in 2018.