events review

ESTnet Autumn Events Review

It was a busy September for the ESTnet, with a trio of well-attended and productive events held in north and south Wales, showcasing the excellent work going on in the Welsh tech sector and with many talking points coming out of all three events.

South Wales Members Meeting

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First, on September 9, the ESTnet headed to the highly impressive new Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult facility on the outskirts of Newport. Proceedings were kicked off by Andy Sellars, strategic development director for CSA Catapult, who gave a summary of the tremendous potential in the south Wales semiconductor cluster, which was recently highlighted in the Financial Times.

Next, ESTnet managing director Avril Lewis gave a glimpse of the future for the ESTnet as it evolves – stay tuned for more from Technology Wales, as it unifies the Welsh technology industry, champions its interests and promotes its economic and social impact. A new range of membership categories were also revealed.

Stephen Bates, former RAF engineer-turned-cyber team manager at Thales’ National Digital Exploitation Centre then presented to the room, highlighting the opportunities for collaboration with the global giant. Cardiff Capital Region Deal’s Nicola Somerville proceeded to gave us some insight on what the £1.2bn investment could mean for tech companies in south Wales.

For a glimpse into the future, the room was given four excellent ‘elevator pitches’ from some highly promising start-ups and smaller companies: Wales Technology Awards-nominated RouteKonnect, app development company Propeller, careers platform MiFuture and new local services app Uddr.

We then welcomed David Hillan, tax partner at Grant Thornton, who’d braved the weather to travel down from Birmingham to offer some useful tax and finance-related information to members, with R&D tax credits a particularly interesting takeaway point.

Factory of the Future

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The ESTnet headed to Newport Wafer Fab on 10 September for the second installment of our Factory of the Future series delivered in partnership with Barclays and Barclays Eagle Labs. This event focused on Big Data & Automation, and the ways in which technology can help Wales’ traditionally strong manufacturing base.

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Three excellent speakers shared their knowledge with attendees. Dr Mike Lakoju, research associate in Data Science and Cyber Analytics presented his work on Chatty Factories, a £1.5m project focused on revolutionising the manufacturing industry by creating a system which allows products securely to ‘talk’ directly to the factory floor.

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Blue Prism’s Emily Bristow was up next, showing how that when it comes to introducing automation to the manufacturing process, companies should think more ‘Iron Man’ than Terminator, using it to augment their human talent rather than replace it.

Before a lively panel discussion, networking and a tour of Newport Wafer Fab, Gareth Jones of Japanese-headquartered firm Omron Electronics gave some fascinating real-life examples of automation being implemented into the manufacturing process.

North Wales Members’ Meeting

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To round up a busy month, the ESTnet welcomed its members in north Wales to the OpTIC Technology Centre in St Asaph on 18 September.

A packed schedule of speakers was kicked off by Gwenllian Roberts, the Welsh Government’s chief regional officer for north Wales. Gwenllian gave some great insight into how businesses in north Wales can engage with Welsh Government before Ashley Rogers, chairman of the North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council, gave a presentation showcasing the potential in the North Wales Growth Deal.

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Dale Weedman of Fibrespeed was the first of several elevator pitches from businesses in the region. Anna Burke of Animated Technologies and Karl Hargrave of Security Foundry followed, talking about their work in content marketing and cyber security respectively.

Alan Cross (below), regional ambassador for the European Space Agency’s Business Applications was next to take the stage, offering a tantalising glimpse of the funding potential for businesses in the north West and North Wales to develop space applications for commercial use.

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After some more interesting elevator pitches from Wyn Jones of Design Reality and Weekly 10’s Andy Roberts, Glyndwr Innovation’s Richard Hazlewood showed the cutting-edge work taking place  at the facility.

A very big thank you to our excellent hosts for the three events: CSA Catapult, Newport Wafer Fab, The OpTIC Centre, along with all the superb speakers, presenters and exhibitors. Plans are already underway for the next exciting round of events – stay tuned for more information.